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Biomedical Research Units

Acclaimed film director Ken Loach opens innovative Nottingham Hearing BRU Family Lab

Dr Deborah James from Nottingham's Hearing BRU looks on as Ken Loach cuts the ribbon

Cannes Palm D’Or winner Ken Loach opened the ‘s new Family Lab in early November at Ropewalk House, Nottingham. The lab explores pioneering ways of improving communication between parents and children with hearing difficulties.

Located in Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust’s clinical building at 113 The Ropewalk, the Family Lab films interaction between parents and their children. The footage is then analysed to examine moments of successful communication. Even a single frame of film showing body or facial expressions can give researchers the evidence they need to help parents develop their own skills. This can be invaluable to deliver confidence in a parent’s own ability to communicate with their child.

Professor Dame Sally C. Davies, Director General of Research and Development at the Department of Health, said: “I welcome the pioneering research in Nottingham that uses film to show parents how best they can communicate with their children. I am delighted that the National Institute for Health Research is opening a new Family Lab led by this excellent team, which paves the way for further research into deafness and hearing within the NHS.”

Dr Deborah James of the University of Nottingham, 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 parents find this 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.”

The Biomedical Research Unit in Hearing, and its Family Lab, is working alongside the Trust’s Nottingham Cochlear Implant Centre at Ropewalk House and the Ear Foundation to carry out translational research in hearing. Nottingham is unique in the UK in having three prestigious NIHR Biomedical Research Units, the other two being in Respiratory and Digestive Diseases.

Tracey Twomey, Head of Service at the Nottingham Cochlear Implant Centre, added:

“There is a range of benefits that patients gain from their cochlear implants, and NCIP is working with Dr James in NBRUH to improve understanding of this. The work has implications for deaf patients both in the UK and internationally, where there are often even greater restrictions on healthcare resources.”

Dr Sue Archbold, Chief Executive of the Ear Foundation, said:

“The Ear Foundation is delighted to be associated with the work of the Family Lab – and look forward to the work becoming part of our national and international education programme for those who work with families of deaf children.”

With a film directing career spanning over 40 years, Ken Loach is famous for his realist style; often using unknown talent who have some life experience relating to the characters they are portraying. His output include Kes, Riff-Raff, Looking for Eric and The Wind That Shakes the Barley, for which he won the Palme D’Or in Cannes in 2006.

In recent years, Ken’s profoundly deaf grand-daughter had an implant at the Nottingham Cochlear Implant Centre. She has a special talent for piano and soon attained Grade 5, at the tender age of 10.

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