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Editors: John Graham, Mike Martin
346pp Price £27.50 ISBN 0-870332-23-7
London: Whurr Publishers, 2001 .
The past twenty years have seen considerable changes in the management of hearing impairment. Cochlear implantation has transformed the outlook for the profoundly deaf, and the way in which the outcomes have been monitored in the UK is a model for evidence-based practice. Hearing aid technology is changing, although there is so far no clear information on which patients will benefit from digital processing of sound. Important developments in screening of infants for hearing loss are currently being implemented. A new edition of Deafness, previously edited by John Ballantyne, is therefore welcome. The book is aimed at a wide readership including various professionals who encounter hearing-impaired people, individuals with hearing impairment and those who have a hearing-impaired relative. Topics include the structure and function of the ear, causes of hearing impairment and its assessment, its impact on mental wellbeing and the role of hearing aids of various sorts. The chapters are concise, well laid out and illustrated with clear line diagrams.
This type of book is much more difficult to write than one aimed at the authors' peers, since even basic concepts must be adequately explained and jargon studiously avoided. Most of the authors have succeeded but an exception is the chapter on acquired sensorineural hearing loss, which does not seem to have been written with a lay readership in mind. The opposite pitfall, of simplifying the content so much that it is of no value to professionals in related disciplines, does seem to have been avoided. In the chapter on the management of deafness in childhood the abbreviation SPL (sound pressure level) is used without explanation. Certain areas could have been covered better. The section on middle ear implants is somewhat out of date and not very informative. An account of the potential advantages of implantable hearing aids and the limitations of those currently available would have been more useful than the description of individual devices. These devices are not as yet part of the mainstream management of hearing loss, but patients and healthcare professionals will read about them in the press; a more authoritative account of their present status would have been helpful.
Overall my feeling is that this book will be of considerable use to a range of healthcare professionals and to deaf individuals and their relatives. It is therefore a worthy successor to previous editions.