David Kemp is renowned for his discovery of otoacoustic emissions, which are sounds emitted by the healthy inner ear. When the inner ear is damaged, however, the production of these sounds ceases. His work led to the development of practical techniques for measuring hearing and the first NHS screening programme in 50 years for hearing in newborn babies.
Prior to David’s test, infant hearing was assessed by making noises behind a baby’s head. However, this could only be carried out when the baby was able to support its own head — typically at around eight months of age. Due to a number of flaws, the test led to many false positives for deaf children with a detrimental effect on their language and development.
Over 25 years ago, David founded a company called Otodynamics, which makes diagnostic equipment for hearing defects. He received the Queen’s Award for Technical Achievement in 1993 and 1998 for his discovery. Currently Emeritus Professor at the UCL Ear Institute, David has published around 50 papers over the course of his career.