Committed to Improving the Lives of
People of All Ages with Hearing and Communication Challenges

Marion's Legacy

January 26, 1914 – November 13, 2014

Marion Downs was a distinguished professor emerita at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, where she spent more than 35 years providing clinical services to patients with hearing loss. She devoted her professional life to promoting early identification of hearing loss in newborns, infants, and young children.

During her career at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Marion Downs created, developed, and evaluated a variety of techniques for testing children’s hearing and fitting them with hearing aids. She was among the first to recognize the need for babies with hearing loss to use hearing aids as early as possible. This way, during the infant’s critical development years, their speech, language, and communication skills could improve.

In 1963, Marion Downs pioneered the first national infant hearing screening program in Denver, CO. Since then, she had relentlessly pursued the identification and management of hearing loss in infants and children as a public health issue and an important medical and educational consideration. Her success has resulted in a widespread national program, which makes the screening of newborn hearing a functioning preventative program in more than 40 states across the US as well as in foreign countries.

Marion Downs Center

She is recognized internationally for her work in pediatric audiology. Her publications and lectures have helped people become more alert to the importance of early intervention for hearing loss.

In 1969, Marion Downs proposed that a national committee be established to ensure that pediatric hearing loss would stay as a concern for pediatric health professionals. The committee would have representatives from various professional hearing healthcare organizations interview, evaluate, and recommend best practices to newborn hearing screening programs.

As a result of her visionary thinking, the nation’s Joint Committee on Infant Hearing (JCIH) was organized to provide multidisciplinary leadership and guidance for 35 years in all areas of newborn and infant hearing issues.

An Exemplary Teacher

Marion Downs had lectures throughout the US and in more than 15 foreign countries. She had published nearly 100 articles and books on various aspects of audiology and served as a co-author of Hearing in Children—a textbook that was updated between 1972 and 2013. For thousands of audiologists-in-training, Hearing in Children was their cornerstone to learn how to evaluate and manage children with hearing loss.

Marion Downs Center

Awards Received

Marion Downs received an extensive array of awards that recognize her contributions throughout her career. Among her many honors include:

  • Gold Medal Recognition from the University of Colorado School of Medicine
  • Medal of Ministry of Health of South Vietnam
  • Outstanding Achievement Award from the University of Minnesota

In addition, she has been recognized with honors in nearly every professional hearing-related society, including:

  • American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAO HNS)
  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
  • Colorado Academy of Audiology
  • American Academy of Audiology

Achievements and Contributions

She was a founder of the American Auditory Society, and in 1980, she was invited to present the prestigious Carhart Memorial Lecture. Marion Downs received an Outstanding Service Recognition Award from the American Medical Association for her work in teaching audiology in Vietnam.

Marion Downs was one of the founders of the International Audiology Society. She has served on numerous committees, boards, and task forces on local, national, and international projects. On two occasions, she served as the program chair for the International Society of Audiology Congress.

The Marion Downs Center is dedicated to continuing her legacy and to developing and providing hearing, speech, and language services to our community.

Marion Downs was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame in 2006. Watch this video about Marion Downs.