About Aural Diversity

The Aural Diversity project was conceived by Andrew Hugill in 2018 and supported by GNResound Ltd. The word "auraldiversity" was coined by John Levack Drever in a series of articles following on from his landmark study into the effects of hand dryer noise. He explains:

”In contrast to the medicalized term "otologically normal", I have provocatively coined the term auraltypical which I use to refer to a “normal” hearer (of which I was one until recently I developed moderate tinnitus in my right ear), a term that I have adapted from the autistic community, which often label people who are not on the autism spectrum as neurotypical. Neurotypical refers to non- autistic people’s normality and implies their tendency to impose their understanding of normality on everyone else as correct and natural.

Accompanying auraltypical hearing which we are trained to practice as acousticians, is the actual variety of (often less than ideal) hearing that we experience throughout a normal day and through- out our lives albeit to varying degrees (from the trifling experience of a temporary threshold shift or transient ear noise to intolerable pain from hyperacusis) which can be called auraldiversity."

The Aural Diversity project applies this idea to music, the sonic arts, environmental design, audiology, hearing aid design and other related areas.

It will be noted that the project avoids the term "disability". This is not to deny the disabling effects of hearing loss, but rather to focus on the creative potential in the concept of diversity. By inviting aurally diverse musicians, composers, artists and audiences to undertake practice-based research into the commonalities and differences between them, we aim to establish a new kind of musical theory and practice that meets the needs of all listeners. This concept is elaborated in a blog post by Andrew Hugill, which states:

Most music is made and reproduced on the assumption that all listeners hear in the same way. Psychologists generally write about aural perception as though it is a single standardised thing. Acousticians normally design the sonic environment using uniform measures. Musicologists typically discuss music at it is meant to be heard, not as it actually is heard. The reality, of course, is that almost all people hear differently from one another.

Research Publications

Drever, J. (2017) ’The Case for Auraldiversity in Acoustic Regulations and Practice: The Hand Dryer Noise Story’, 24th International Congress on Sound and Vibration, London, pp. 1-6.