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Hearing Research: Film Director Launches Pioneering Project

Film director Ken Loach has officially opened a new research lab which explores pioneering ways of improving communication between parents and children with hearing difficulties.

National Institute for Health ResearchThe Family Lab is part of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Unit in Hearing, a partnership between The University of Nottingham, Nottingham University Hospitals Trust and the Medical Research Council Institute for Hearing Research.

Based at Ropewalk House in Nottingham city centre, the Family Lab films interaction between parents and their children – and uses the footage to examine moments of successful communication.

Even if this is a single frame of film showing body or facial expressions, the evidence is taken, worked on and the parent uses it to develop their own skills. This helps parents to have confidence in their own ability to communicate with their child.

Dr Deborah James, who is leading the research at the Family Lab, said: “For most parents, the diagnosis of deafness in their baby comes out of the blue and is very stressful – they worry about how to communicate with their baby who can’t hear them.

“We are embarking on a major programme of work to explore the biological, psychological and social basis for this film-based intervention which parents find empowering.

“This unique intervention approach has caught the interest of Ken Loach, a major UK film director, who also uses film to help people reformulate their identity.”

Speaking at the launch, Mr Loach said: “When a family finds out that a child can’t hear, it is traumatic. It can shatter the family and they really need support. We are very much aware of the need for a network of supporting professionals to carry a family through.

“This unit seems like a brilliant idea. When people put their imagination to a situation and have the skills and knowledge I think many things are possible.

“I think film is a very careful observer of how people are. When you film someone having a conversation, listening or responding you see things in film that you don't see as a casual observer and you can look at it again and build on those responses.”

The Biomedical Research Unit in Hearing, and its Family Lab, is working alongside the Trust’s Nottingham Cochlear Implant Centre (NCIC) at Ropewalk House and the Ear Foundation to carry out translational research in hearing.

Ken Loach has had a successful film directing career which has spanned more than 40 years. His films include Kes, Riff-Raff and The Wind That Shakes the Barley, for which he won the Palme D’Or in Cannes in 2006.

Taken from www.nottingham.ac.uk/News/pressreleases.

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