Phyllis M. Tookey Kerridge and the science of audiometric standardization in Britain

Jaipreet Virdi, Coreen McGuire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
368 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

The provision of standardized hearing aids is now considered to be a crucial part of the UK National Health Service. Yet this is only explicable through reference to the career of a woman who has, until now, been entirely forgotten. Dr Phyllis Margaret Tookey Kerridge (1901-1940) was an authoritative figure in a variety of fields: medicine, physiology, otology and the construction of scientific apparatus. The astounding breadth of her professional qualifications allowed her to combine features of these fields and, later in her career, to position herself as a specialist to shape the discipline of audiometry. Rather than framing Kerridge in the classic 'heroic-woman' narrative, in this article we draw out the complexities of her career by focusing on her pursuit of standardization of hearing tests. Collaboration afforded her the necessary networks to explore the intricacies of accuracy in the measurement of hearing acuity, but her influence was enhanced by her ownership of Britain's first Western Electric (pure-tone) audiometer, which she placed in a specially designed and unique 'silence room'. The room became the centre of Kerridge's hearing aid clinic that, for the first time, allowed people to access free and impartial advice on hearing aid prescription. In becoming the guardian expert and advocate of the audiometer, Kerridge achieved an objectively quantified approach to hearing loss that eventually made the latter an object of technocratic intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-146
Number of pages24
JournalBritish Journal for the History of Science
Volume51
Issue number1
Early online date17 Dec 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018

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