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Portraits of James E. West, Andrew Foster, and Dr. Derek Dunn


Honoring Black History Month: Innovators of Hearing Health

February is Black History Month. We would like to recognize three innovators as Gateway heroes who have impacted hearing health and the deaf community. They have contributed tremendous developments such as educational opportunities for individuals with hearing loss, creating advanced hearing aid technology, and advocating for workplace hearing protection.

James E. West

James E. West is currently a research professor of electrical and computer engineering and mechanical engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Professor West is a prolific inventor and holds over 350 patents! Notably, in 1961, he co-created the Electret Microphone and revolutionized the hearing aid industry. While working for the Acoustics Research Department at Bell Laboratories, West and his colleague produced this tiny, inexpensive, and highly sensitive microphone. The technology is still used today in almost any device with microphones. Products such as hearing aids, audio recording devices, video recorders, baby monitors, and cell phones!

Andrew Foster

Andrew Foster lost his hearing as a child after suffering from spinal meningitis. Despite the adversity he faced while growing up in the segregated Southern US, he became a visionary educator for the deaf and hard of hearing. The first African-American to receive a Bachelor’s Degree from Galludet University, Foster made deaf education access and inclusion his life’s mission. Consequently, he founded 32 schools for the deaf and hard of hearing in Africa, expanding over 13 countries. His tireless commitment earned Foster the title “Father of Deaf Education in Africa.”


Dr. Derek Dunn

Dr. Derek Dunn received his B.S. (1969), M.A. (1970), and Ph.D. (1972) from the University of Cincinnati. Further, he completed an NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship in electron microscopy and cochlear morphology at Ohio State University. Dr. Dunn also worked as a guest researcher at Sweden’s University of Lund. Further, he was a leader in hearing health and an advocate for workers’ rights regarding hearing protection. In his work at the Science at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), he made outstanding contributions to the prevention of occupational hearing loss. His personal slogan was, “What have you done for the worker today?”


Black History is Our History

As we honor Black History Month, these days and every day we are grateful for the contributions of black innovators, scientists, artists, historians, educators and so much more. At Gateway we know and understand that Black History is Our History.

We believe that everyone has the right to language access and hearing health services. Therefore, our Speech, Language, and Hearing Clinic ensure everyone access to vital community health service. Do you suffer from hearing loss or require speech pathology services? Contact us today to schedule an appointment. Together we are building a society where everyone can understand and be understood.

First published on February 1, 2022.