I’m happy to announce that I signed a contract with University of Chicago Press to publish my first book, Hearing Happiness: Fakes, Frauds, and Fads in Deafness Cures. The book explores the history of therapeutic choices and negotiations respecting “deafness cures,” including Eustachian tube catheterization, artificial eardrums, electrical apparatuses, the fenestration operation, and an abundance of “quack” curers and their cures.
Charting the varied ways deaf individuals attempted to amplify their hearing, Hearing Happiness shows how these attempts were shaped by particular cultural expectations of ability, functionality, and citizenship. Medical interventions, biological ideals, regulation of state institutions, educational debates, and a cultural emphasis on hearing and speech also contributed to the formation of what it meant to be a “normal” deaf citizen in America, issues that are still debated today.
As I’ve shown on this blog, deafness has a long history with quackery. It’s nearly impossible to study the medical history of deafness without coming across numerous examples of curious cures and miraculous remedies, because until the emergence of 20th century hearing aids and safe surgical procedures, there was little the medical profession could do to treat hearing loss. Even Beethoven knew this. In 1801, his doctor prescribed almond oil to treat his deafness, but the remedy did nothing and Beethoven’s hearing actually worsened. So he sought another doctor, “a medical ass who advised [him] to take…tea for [his] ear.”
Keep an eye out on this blog for more details about the book over the next few months.