The Memphis SOUND Project 

Untreated hearing loss can cause problems with cognition, physical health, and social interactions. This is an important issue in the Black community, as Black adults tend to experience health inequities including higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and dementia. While hearing aids and cochlear implants can help reduce these health risks, these devices are used at a low rate among Black adults. There is not much research in what can be done to improve hearing outcomes among Black Adults. 

We know that social, cultural, and economic factors make it harder for some people to receive the healthcare they need. To improve hearing healthcare in minoritized communities, the Cochlear Implant Research Lab (CIRL) at the University of Memphis is leading a community-engaged research project called The Memphis SOUND Project. "SOUND" stands for Serving Our Underrepresented Neighbors who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing. This project aims to understand the challenges people face related to hearing healthcare. Ultimately, the project will help people get the hearing healthcare they need to improve their communication and quality of life.  

The Memphis SOUND Project is unique in that it brings together community members, researchers, and healthcare professionals to work together equally. We recognize that all team members have special expertise that will benefit the project. This approach helps build trust and engagement, especially in groups that have been underrepresented or treated unfairly in past research. Using a community-engaged approach is important for solving health problems in marginalized communities. It has many benefits, such as making research more relevant and lasting, increasing community skills, and improving community health. 

A key part of this project is the community advisory board, which includes nine members from various backgrounds, including healthcare professionals, Deaf Studies experts, and individuals with personal experiences with hearing loss. This board provides valuable insights to ensure the project's relevance and effectiveness in addressing the needs of Black individuals in Memphis who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. (list board names) 

The Memphis SOUND Project was named after “The Memphis Sound,” which is term used to describe the Southern Soul Music first generated in Memphis during the 1960s and 1970s. Influenced by jazz, blues, and gospel music, the Memphis Sound or Soul Music is an expressive genre which often described both struggles and joys experienced by the Black community. Known for its sense of authenticity and stories about personal experiences, the term “Soul” touches on its ability to connect humans on a deeper, meaningful level. True to its name, The Memphis SOUND Project aims to improve communication within our community so that people can experience deeper connections with each other. 

Memphis, Tennessee, is the largest majority-Black city in the U.S., with nearly two-thirds of its 621,050 residents identifying as Black. The city faces many social and economic challenges and has worse health outcomes compared to other parts of the country. The poverty rate for Black adults over 65 is nearly double the national average for older adults (link to poverty report).