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Biographical entry Buffin, John Terence (1930 - 2015)

BA Oxford 1952; BM BCh 1955; DLO 1958; FRCS 1965.

29 August 1930
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
24 October 2015
ENT surgeon and Specialist in medical audiology


John Terence Buffin, always known as 'Terry', was an ENT surgeon in Chesterfield and Sheffield, and subsequently a distinguished consultant in medical audiology in Sheffield. He was one of the pioneers of that specialty, recognised for his published contributions to the accurate diagnosis of noise-induced deafness and the management of intractable tinnitus, as well as his care for the deaf in South Yorkshire and north Derbyshire.

Terry was born in Cheltenham on 29 August 1930 to Albert Thomas Buffin ('Tom'), a greengrocer, and Annie (née Cutts), a teacher, and attended Cheltenham Grammar School from 1941 to 1948. He went up to Pembroke College, Oxford as a Townsend scholar, continuing at Oxford Clinical Medical School from 1952 to 1955. He graduated with a BA in animal physiology and biochemistry in 1952, and gained his medical degree in 1955.

During his appointments as a house physician and house surgeon in ENT surgery at Oxford's Radcliffe Infirmary, he met and married Joan Lawrence, originally from Llay in north Wales, then a staff nurse. Following a further appointment in ENT surgery in High Wycombe, he carried out his National Service in the Army as a junior ENT specialist with the rank of captain at Catterick.

Following his National Service, Terry completed his training in ENT surgery in Aylesbury and High Wycombe, Wrexham, Manchester Royal Infirmary and at the United Sheffield Hospitals, where he was a senior registrar from 1965 to 1967. He was appointed as a consultant in ENT surgery to the United Sheffield Hospitals and Chesterfield Royal Hospital in May 1967. In 1976 he relinquished his post in Chesterfield to work entirely in Sheffield at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, and the Sheffield Children's Hospital, before retiring in 1994. He was an honorary clinical lecturer in audiological medicine at the University of Sheffield from 1976 to 1994, having previously held a similar position in the department of diseases of the ear, nose and throat from 1967.

His work in medical audiology was widely recognised; he undertook early work in transtympanic electrocochleography with John Stevens of the department of medical physics, both for threshold estimation and for diagnostic purposes, and was an early pioneer with him of electric response audiometry and the use of click-evoked otoacoustic emissions in the diagnosis of neonatal hearing loss. In addition to his paediatric clinical work, he was the joint author of several important papers on the diagnostic criteria for noise-induced hearing loss used widely in medico-legal proceedings. He joined his surgical colleagues in starting cochlear implantation in Sheffield in its early days, but the surgical element had to be discontinued with the introduction of the national implant programme, although the department continued to provide the post-operative rehabilitation in Sheffield.

His expertise and his dedication to the cause of deafness led to his appointment as president of the Sheffield Deaf Children's Society and of the Sheffield Tinnitus Association and as a governor of the Maud Maxfield School for the Deaf and, after its closure, to Greystones School, which housed an integrated facility for deaf and hearing-impaired children. He was medical adviser and chairman of the professional advisory committee of the British Tinnitus Association and a council member of the British Association of Otorhinolaryngologists (now ENT UK). He served both as secretary and president of the North of England Otolaryngology Society and taught regularly on the audiology courses run by the University of Nottingham.

Terry and Joan, who predeceased him in 2012, had three sons - Andrew, an oil exploration geologist; Michael, a cardiac bypass pump technologist; and David, an environmental scientist. They had five grandchildren, one of whom (Oliver) has followed Terry into medicine.

Terry and Joan were skilled and enthusiastic gardeners, and opened their garden for charitable causes. They travelled extensively, including a flight to New York on Concorde, and were knowledgeable lovers of art galleries and museums. They took part in amateur dramatics and had a large circle of friends from Theatre Focus in Sheffield. A cultured polymath, Terry was a pianist and organist, and a linguist with a sound knowledge of French and Italian, as well as Anglo-Saxon, Latin and Greek.

In retirement, he joined a philosophical discussion group, an interest which persisted until his final days. This prompted him to write a monograph - An essay on hearing - which was a distillation of his views on perception and the nature of sound and hearing. He read avidly, particularly political biographies, had a large collection of such books and was a ready source of recondite information and learning.

In recent years, he joined an amateur choir in the Peak District village of Hathersage, having been formerly a member of the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus.

His last years were affected both by the loss of Joan, for whom he had cared lovingly, and by the illness of his son David, who became very disabled following a dissecting aortic aneurysm, and who for his last four years he would visit weekly in London, taking immense pleasure in every improvement that David made. He bore these tribulations with great resolve and optimism.

Terry Buffin died peacefully in St Luke's Hospice in Sheffield on 24 October 2015 following a short illness. He was 85. His intellect and his calm happy personality are missed by his family and friends.

Peter Bull

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Buffin family].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England