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Hidden Disabilities

To explore potential for artistic works that inquire into the experience of dry mouth and hearing loss


Hidden7'NO JOY' Text that incorporates immunohistochemistry of a human eardrum detailing a person’s experience when faced with 80% hearing loss. Image: Emma Barnard    

What is the power of human sensation? How does our ability to hear, salivate and taste affect everyday life? It is typical that patients suffering or surviving head and neck diseases continue to be impaired by disabilities and sensory disorders that are often overlooked by clinicians and patients alike. Not least because our senses of hearing and taste are hidden, by virtue of their anatomy. The theme of ‘hidden disability’ came to the project team in their observations of vulnerable patients, in particular the elderly, those suffering dementia, Sjogren Syndrome and survivors of head and neck cancer. Too readily, aspects affecting the quality of life of these patients are not recognised or even ignored.

Hearing and salivation are taken for granted by the public, by patients and even by clinicians. As such the team recognised a need to raise awareness especially amongst clinicians of the hidden nature of hearing loss and dry mouth amongst vulnerable patient groups.

A dry and silent world: living with hidden disabilities sought to encourage a three-way dialogue between patients, clinicians and academics mediated and documented through art.



A dry and silent world: living with hidden disabilities was a collaboration between King's College London's Centre for Craniofacial & Regenerative Biology and Emma Barnard. It was supported by the university's Culture team.

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