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Children all ears at hearing event

Thursday was World Hearing Day. During one of the Leiden2022 activities, visitors to Corpus Museum could learn all about ears and test whether theirs worked properly. How exactly does an ear work? What solutions are there for deaf people and what is a bionic ear?

Margriet van Gendt explains the solutions for hearing loss.

An enormous ear leads museum visitors to where they can learn more about ears and hearing. Once inside, a group of children gather with their parents and grandparents around audiologists Jan de Laat and Margriet van Gendt from the LUMC. The audiologists explain how an ear actually works, when sounds are harmful and what solutions there are for deaf people. They tell the group that sounds above 80 decibels can be harmful to your hearing and a violinist demonstrates how loud this is – to the surprise of some of the children. To the group’s relief, the violinist explains that she wears ear protectors when she plays her violin loudly for a longer period of time.

Bionic ear

But what if you haven’t protected your ears properly or have hearing loss for some other reason? More and more deaf people can hear via a bionic ear, an electronic device that transmits sounds directly to the auditory nerve. Dennis Massar has such a bionic ear, also known as a cochlear implant. He is bombarded by questions from the audience. ‘Do you sleep with the binary ears in?’ ‘What kind of alarm clock do you have?’ ‘Can you wear headphones?’ ‘Can you hear music properly?’

Dennis Massar with his bionic ear.

Massar answers all the questions. He doesn’t sleep with the device in because then it presses into his skull and is uncomfortable. But this means that he can’t hear a regular alarm clock, so he has one that vibrates instead. And yes, he can wear headphones but doesn’t need to because the bionic ear has Bluetooth. So he can listen to music everywhere and can hear it properly too, which is very important to him as a professional dancer. While the violinist plays, he shows that you can dance perfectly to music with bionic ears.

Thimon tries to insert a tube.

Inserting tubes

Then it’s time for the visitors to do various tests themselves. Thimon (11) concentrates hard as he tries to insert a tube into an ‘eardrum’.  He pushes the first tube straight through it, but after some fiddling has the second tube in the right place. He could become an ENT doctor says the instructor. But Thimon doesn’t fancy that. ‘I don’t want to look at sinister things.’ When asked what is sinister about an ear, he replies almost immediately, ‘Earwax.’


Right next to him Marylène (10) is doing a hearing test and discovers that her ears are working really well. This is good because the next test, lip-reading, turns out to be much more difficult. She has to guess which month of the year someone has said. ‘The long months were difficult to lip-read.’

To round off the visit, a number of the children pop into the silent disco. This makes for a long afternoon for some of the parents. They stand on the sidelines while their children dance like there’s no tomorrow.

Text: Dagmar Aarts
Photos: Eelkje Colmjon

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