Obituary – Alan Martin, 1942-2024


Dr Alan Martin, a pioneering figure in audiology, passed away peacefully at home on Thursday June 6th 2024, after a short illness. He was 81. A dedicated researcher, educator and clinician, Alan made significant contributions to the field throughout his career at the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR), University of Southampton.

Born in 1942, he earned a BSc in Physics and an MSc in Applied Acoustics at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, followed by a PhD in Industrial Audiology at the University of Salford.

Alan joined the ISVR in 1971 as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow following research for his PhD concerning the effect of impact noise on hearing in the workplace. At ISVR he trained further in audiology and rose through the ranks, becoming Lecturer in Audiology in 1978 and Senior Lecturer in 1985. His research interests focused on industrial audiology and hearing conservation, where he led ground-breaking studies that shaped noise exposure regulations and standards for hearing protection.

Alan’s early research involved developing a standard subjective procedure for measuring the sound attenuation of hearing protectors, which was subsequently adopted as a British Standard. He then very astutely talked the University into allowing the Hearing Conservation Unit to charge hearing protector companies to measure the attenuation performance of their products. The clever bit was getting the University to allow the Hearing Conservation Unit to retain the fees in an account which could be used for sending ISVR members to conferences, which explains how Mark Lutman, Peter Wilkins, Alan and Steve Karmy ended up with trips to Australia, Canada or Spain to present papers at major conferences.

Alan also took his family to the USA and South America on sabbatical research trips, forming international contacts and making friends for ISVR. His trip to Argentina was to help set up research facilities for evaluating personal hearing protection, including that in the mining industry. In Florida, the US Navy funded his research into noise-induced hearing loss.

Beyond industrial audiology, Alan also conducted research on hearing underwater, divers’ occupational noise exposure levels and the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss in divers. This work, partly funded by the Institute of Naval Medicine, involved constructing a specialized anechoic tank to measure the free-field threshold of hearing underwater.

Part of his early research in Southampton was into the effectiveness of hearing protectors and for this research he received the Adolph Kammer Authorship Award from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in 1980.

As an educator, Alan directed the MSc Audiology program at ISVR from 1978 until his retirement in 1999, the premier UK education and training program for NHS audiological scientists. He was a passionate (and sometimes formidable) teacher with demanding standards. He shaped the careers of countless audiological scientists in the UK and worldwide, many going on to become leaders in the discipline. Part of his role involved working as a clinician in ISVR’s Wessex Regional Audiology Clinic. In this role, he received patient referrals from NHS audiology and ENT colleagues in the area of adult audio-vestibular assessment. His former students remember his engaging teaching style. In weekly clinical case studies, the unprepared MSc student had nowhere to hide from his critical eye for detail. Alan would sit on the back row where, occasionally could be heard, a tut, a long sigh and a clack of his teeth!

His office door was always open, and his infectious laugh could frequently be heard along the entire corridor. He is remembered for his ready smile and generous spirit, exemplified by the warm hospitality he and his wife, Janie, extended to the MSc Audiology students at their annual dinner parties, a highlight of the social calendar. Always sociable, the working week would invariably end with a visit to the John Arlott bar in the university staff club.

Alan’s commitment to service extended beyond the university. He was a founding member of the British Association of Audiological Scientists and served as Chairman of the British Society of Audiology from 1988 to 1990. He was also an active member of the “Green Dragon Club,” an informal social group of ISVR colleagues that met monthly at the namesake pub in the New Forest.

Alan was a keen sailor, a factor that contributed to his decision to move from Manchester to Southampton. He owned a boat moored at Lymington and would invite friends and colleagues to sail with him. Following his retirement in 1999, he and his wife Janie fulfilled their lifelong dream of sailing around the Mediterranean, living aboard their boat for 9 months of the year over 8 years. In his later years, he enjoyed a quieter life on the Isle of Wight, pursuing hobbies such as gardening and playing bridge.

In his retirement, as an honorary life member of the British Society of Audiology, he read with great interest and pride of the success of many of his former students in the field of Audiology. On the Isle of Wight, he and his wife were enthusiastic members of the Isle of Wight Natural History and Archaeological Society, where Alan took charge of Geophysics for the archaeology section, an interest which both challenged and surprised him.

Alan will be remembered for his pioneering research, his dedication to education and his warm and generous spirit. He leaves behind a lasting legacy in the field of audiology and in the lives he touched. He is survived by his wife, Janie, his children Kate, Matt and Jo, and their grandchildren.

Stefan Bleeck and former colleagues, ISVR

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