About Us


The Bionic Ear Show is an interactive educational show which tells the story of sound as it travels through the ear to the brain, with the help of The World’s Largest Ear.

The Show was created by Professor Matthew Holley of the Department of Biomedical Science, the University of Sheffield, and researched and developed by ‘Science Made Simple’, Deafness Research UK and Tobin May. The Show's current Scientific Advisor is Dr Bradford Backus of the UCL Ear Institute.

The Bionic Ear Show raises awareness of the importance of hearing, how it can be damaged and what you can do to protect it. The show is fun and communicates simple messages that can make a real difference to everyone's lives. It is based upon our groundbreaking scientific research into hearing and hearing loss.


"One of the best educational shows I've seen in years ... exemplary in content, visual presentation and delivery." Colin Johnson OBE,Vice-President (Young People's Programmes)The British Association for the Advancement of Science


Tobin May - Bionic Ear Show Presenter

Tobin May has been successfully presenting the show to a wide range of audiences throughout the UK since the pilot of the Bionic Ear Outreach Programme in 2007.

Tobin qualified as a science teacher in 1997, and taught for many years at Further Education Colleges throughout London. He moved from formal to informal education becoming an experienced scientific producer and presenter, eventually managing the Darwin Centre Live programme at the Natural History Museum. As a freelancer, Tobin has produced many events for clients such as the Science Museum and Excite-UK. 


Andrew Goodwin - Outreach Advisor

Andrew Goodwin has been our Outreach Advisor since the beginning of 2010, assisting Tobin with the Bionic Ear Show project, delivering hearing screening, as well as offering support and advice for the UK population. 

Andrew was born with a severe hearing loss, however at the age of 30, out of the blue, woke up one morning to find he was profoundly deaf. Andrew's determination to help others in similar situations, and to offer advice and support to anyone across the UK concerned about their hearing, led him into the charity sector. He has worked for numerous charities, as well as becoming Eastbourne Borough Councils Disability Champion between 2007 and 2010.


Professor Matthew Holley, Professor of Sensory Physiology and Head of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Sheffield.

Professor Matthew Holley is a senior researcher at Sheffield, and the creator of the Bionic Ear Show.

Matthew's work focuses on the development and function of the inner ear in mammals. He is investigating potential treatments for hearing loss. He has developed models for better understanding sensory hair cells and sensory nerves, and uses these to study gene networks. He has also explored a model system for transplanting cells into the inner ear.

In addition to conducting research, Matthew is a passionate communicator about science. He has been an expert panellist at Café Scientifique debates and given talks for the ‘National Science Week Lectures for Schools’ programme including Sounds Interesting and The Bionic Ear. In 2004, he gave the David Allen-Booth Memorial Lecture during National Science Week. He also gave a talk called One Way Ticket to Silence at the 2003 BA Festival of Science.

Dr Bradford Backus, UCL Ear Institute - Scientific Advisor

Dr Backus is a researcher investigating the human audio-cochlea system using oto-acoustic emissions, and is the Scientific Advisor for The Bionic Ear Show.

His research relates to the genetics of hearing, noise-induced hearing loss, and tinnitus. His studies also investigate the intelligibility of speech in background noise, and how low-frequency hearing works.


Current Sponsor


The Big Lottery Fund



Past Sponsors

Specsavers, The Wellcome Trust, The Scottish Government, Bupa, Science Made Simple

past sponsors of the bionic ear show SMS


Deafness Research UK

Deafness Research UK is the only national charity in the UK dedicated to finding cures for deafness and other conditions such as tinnitus.

There has never been a more exciting time for research. We are on the threshold of truly revolutionary developments in genetics, pharmacology, digital technology, and many other disciplines which, over the next decade, could dramatically improve the quality of life for millions of deaf and hard of hearing people in this country and around the world.

Scientists are now predicting that, within the next five to ten years they will be able to slow the advancement of the most common forms of deafness – age related hearing loss. Within the next ten to fifteen years there could even be a cure for deafness and Deafness Research UK is at the forefront of this work.

Our scientists are also identifying genes that cause deafness and counselling the families affected; making hearing aids and cochlear implants more effective; investigating the causes of childhood glue ear so that non-surgical treatments can be developed and much more besides.

If you are diagnosed with either a hearing loss or tinnitus, contact Deafness Research UK’s Advisory Service by calling our national freephone number 0808 808 2222 or email us at info@deafnessresearch.org.uk


Hearing Loss
Deafness Research UK is a company limited by guarantee registered in England No. 1927658
Registered charity No. 326915