Today we celebrate the 15th anniversary of World Hearing Day. But did you know Alexander Graham Bell shares a special connection to this important day?
March 3 marks a special day for millions of people across the world. World Hearing Day, a day devoted to raising support and awareness for hearing health, will be commemorated for the 15th year in a row in 2022.
But did you know that March 3 is also the birthday of the famed inventor Alexander Graham Bell? It’s no coincidence that the founders chose to honor Bell’s legacy by selecting his birthday for World Hearing Day!
What is World Hearing Day?
World Hearing Day was founded by the World Health Organization on March 3, 2007, in honor of Alexander Graham Bell’s contributions to developments in speech and hearing science.
World Hearing Day raises awareness about hearing loss and the importance of hearing health worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, 360 million people across the globe have suffered from hearing loss, a challenge that has historically created obstacles in communicating, learning and working. In addition, World Hearing Day helps fight harmful stigmas that have followed the deaf and hard of hearing community for generations.
Thankfully, there have been many progressive medical and social advances in addressing hearing loss over the decades. Modern diagnosis and intervention strategies have realized some to the dreams that AGBell had for people who are deaf and hard of hearing.
What was Alexander Graham Bell’s impact on helping people who are deaf and hard of hearing?
Though Bell is frequently remembered as the inventor of the telephone, he left a legacy of devoted service to people who are deaf. He was especially dedicated to improving the lives of children with hearing loss.
Alexander Graham Bell was an innovative teacher for his deaf pupils long before becoming an internationally renowned public figure. In 1868, he taught his first deaf pupils in London and declared he found “what proved to be my life-work – the teaching of speech to the deaf.”
After emigrating to Boston in 1870, he instructed other teachers at a publicly funded school for the deaf and tutored deaf adults free of charge. Bell worked with Helen Keller, who expressed sincere gratitude for Bell’s service throughout her lifetime.
In addition, Bell wrote dozens of educational leadership essays on teaching people who are deaf or hard of hearing. He also invented devices to assist with hearing and led conferences as a leader in acoustic science.
In 1890 Bell established a foundation for “teachers of the deaf” known today as the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. This global organization provides a range of supporting services including certification of teachers in the Listening and Spoken Language Specialty. The AGBell Association advocates for listening and spoken language world wide.
During his lifetime, Bell authored many patents in telephony, sound recording ,and sound reproduction. Bell’s thinking was ahead of his time. He imagined a modern world where people who are deaf and hard of hearing could easily listen and speak.
Why was Bell passionate about serving people who were deaf and hard of hearing?
Bell’s passion for service begins with his childhood. A Scotsman by birth, Bell grew up surrounded by bright minds with a penchant for speech and sound. Both his grandfather and father worked in the field we now call speech pathology, providing the foundation of Bell’s lifelong interests in communication, sound, and speech production.
Bell’s talent for invention emerged when he was still a young boy. His father frequently challenged him to experiment and push the boundaries of sound through innovation. In one instance, his father challenged him to build a “speaking machine,” which Bell managed to do with his brothers.. Bell also made machines for people around his town, including a clever device for a local miller that could remove husks from grains.
Perhaps the most prominent motivation for his service for people who are deaf came from those closest to Bell’s heart. Bell’s mother, Eliza Bell, had hearing loss, and later, his wife, Mabel Hubbard Bell, became deaf from a childhood illness thought to be scarlet fever..
Bell knew how to communicate with his deaf mother. He spoke through an ear trumpet so she could hear. He mastered the manual alphabet that was popular at the time and would sign conversations for his mother so she didn’t feel left out.
All of these interests led Bell into his lifelong service as an educator and advocate of the deaf community. It seems Alexander was meant to spend his life in service to the deaf community, as so many elements of his life worked together to drive his lifelong passion.