Honoring Marion Downs
In honor of Marion Down’s 100th birthday, the AG
Bell Board of Directors passed a resolution at its March 2014 meeting in
tribute to her many contributions over her lifetime to the field of audiology
and especially to the field of listening and spoken language for individuals
who are deaf and hard of hearing. Tim Campos, vice president of sales at MED-EL
Corporation who was a former patient and then a colleague from the Denver Ear
Institute, received the resolution on behalf of Marion Downs.
A pioneer in the field, Downs was among the first to
recognize the need for babies to use hearing aids as early as possible to
nurture spoken language during their early critical development years. Her
teachings, publication and influence have extended throughout the United States
and around the world, impacting the lives of countless children and families.
Downs spent more than 35 years providing clinical services
to benefit people with hearing loss and devoted her career to the promotion of
early identification of hearing loss. Downs graduated in 1948 from the
University of Minnesota with a B.A. in political science and English, and in
1949 she decided to pursue further education at the University of Denver. At
that time veterans of World War II returned back to the states, and were
registering for classes in great numbers. Dr. Downs looked at the shortest
registration line, which was Speech and Hearing, and decided to pursue a
master’s degree in audiology. She graduated with her M.A. in audiology in 1951.
Downs is a Distinguished Professor Emerita Otolaryngology
and Audiology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center where she
investigated newborns’ reaction to sounds. Along with Doreen Pollack, she
initiated the practice of fitting hearing aids on infants by the age of six
months. Downs saw a direct relationship between early amplification and
language development as infants had access to sound during critical language
development years which nurtured speech, language and communication skills.
Downs pioneered the first national infant hearing screening
program in 1963 in Denver, Co. and she played a role in national acceptance of
newborn screening in 50 states and internationally. In 1969 Downs proposed that a committee
devoted to best practices for infant screening be created, composed of
representatives of professional hearing health care organizations. As a result
the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing was organized and adopted several
position statements that provide guidance on early hearing identification and
Downs is an extraordinary instructor who has lectured
nationally and internationally about newborn screening, and has published over
100 articles and books including, co-authoring of Hearing in Children with J.
L. Northern, which was updated through five editions between 1972 and 2004 and
was a foundational text for many audiologists in training. She co-authored
Auditory Disorders in School Children (1988) with R. Roeser.
As a reflection of her commitment Downs is the recipient of
three honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Colorado, the
University of Northern Colorado, and the University of Arizona School of Health
Sciences, and received an Outstanding Achievement Award from the University of
Minnesota, and a Gold Medal Recognition from the University of Colorado School
The Marion Downs Hearing Center established at the
University of Colorado mirrors her commitment to the field as the Center provides
services from birth to old age for individuals with hearing loss. Downs’
contributions to the field have been acknowledge through many honors and awards
received throughout her career. From AG Bell she received the 2008 Volta Award.
Downs was honored by the American Academy of Audiology, the
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the American Academy of
Otolaryngology Head and Neck Society, and the American Medical Association
where she received an Outstanding Service Recognition Award, as well as the
Medal of the Ministry of Health of South Vietnam. She was the founder of the
American Auditory Society and among the founders of the International Audiology
Society. She was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame in 2006. In
2007, Downs was recognized with the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services Secretary’s Highest Recognition Award because of her work in
identifying hearing problems in children, and she served as the program chair
for the International Audiology Congress on two occasions.
Audiology Online. Interview with Marion Downs, Audiologist.
Retrieved March 25, 2014 from
Bonfils Station Foundation. 2011 Honorees, Science and
Medicine, Marion Downs. Retrieved March 27, 2014 from
Colorado Women's Hall of Fame. Inductee Gallery, Marion
Downs, Audiologist. Retrieved March 26, 2014 from
Marion Downs Hearing Center. About Marion Downs. Retrieved March
25, 2014 from http://www.mariondowns.com/about-marion-downs
Marion Downs (audiologist). (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved March
26, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marion_Downs_(audiologist)
Murphy, C. (2008). The Volta Award 2008 Award
Recipient - Dr. Marion Downs. Volta
Voices, 15(6), 28-29.