The Nuffield Hearing & Speech Centre is a multi-disciplinary specialist centre for the assessment, diagnosis and management of hearing disorders, listening difficulties, speech and language difficulties, tinnitus and balance disorders in children and young people from birth to 19 years of age.
The work with deaf children in the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital dates back to the 1950s when Edith Whetnall, an ENT surgeon, developed a dedicated clinic for deaf children, which was one of the first in the UK. Her innovative work resulted in 1962 in the building of the Nuffield Hearing & Speech Centre with a grant from the Nuffield Foundation.
Harry Beagley joined the centre in 1964 and developed the use of electrophysiological tests for early identification of deafness. He originally explored the use of electrocochleography and later the ABR (auditory brain-stem evoked response), a technique which is now considered to be the ‘gold standard’ in diagnosis of hearing loss.
In 1971, under the directorship of JAM Martin the Nuffield Speech & Language unit at Ealing was established to cater for the needs of children with speech and language disorders.
The Nuffield Dyspraxia Programme was first published in 1985 as a resource for the assessment and management of verbal and oro-motor dyspraxia and other speech disorders.
Merger with the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust occurred in 1996.
The successful UCLH Cochlear Implant Programme became part of the services of the RNTNEH in 1997. This move brought together the established paediatric teams from both University College Hospital and the Nuffield Hearing & Speech Centre. The programme continues to thrive.
The Nuffield has a long history of very early diagnosis and management of deafness and we were delighted to be part of the Newborn Hearing Screening Programme at its initiation in 2001. As the tertiary centre for Camden & Islington we were one of the pilot sites for this programme.
In 2003 the Nuffield was chosen as a pilot site for Modernising Children’s Hearing Aids (MCHAS), an NHS initiative to fit digital hearing aids to children.
Strong links with the Institute of Laryngology and Otology (ILO) and the Ear Institute have meant that auditory research has had a positive influence on the practice within the centre.
As well as being a recognised centre of excellence for the management of children with disorders of hearing, balance and speech and language the Nuffield is an active training centre for professionals. The Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital is the largest centre for audiovestibular medicine in the UK and is responsible for providing training for the majority of doctors in this field. Strong links with University College London provides opportunities for research as well as teaching and training for audiologists, speech and language therapists, audiovestibular physicians and psychologists. In addition the centre is involved in medical undergraduate teaching, post-graduate training for ENT surgeons and paediatricians and specialist training for nurses and teachers of the deaf.
© Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital, Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust
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