• 10 Extreme 19th Century “Cures” for Deafness

    The nineteenth-century introduced a tremendous number of treatments boasting cures for irremediable deafness. Some of these cures were advised by aurists (specialists of the ear); others were tested home remedies or marketed as proprietary nostrums. Below is a list of some of the most extreme measures that were once popular treatments: 1. MERCURY The use… Continue Reading

  • Galvanism & Deafness

    Galvanism is a medical treatment that involves the application of electric currents to body tissues in order to stimulate the contraction of muscles. First experimented in the late eighteenth-century by Luigi Galvani (1737-1798) who investigated frog legs twitching once sparked by an electric current, galvanism was believed to be a miraculous application of scientific prowess… Continue Reading

  • The Audiphone

    I wrote a new entry over at Nineteenth-Century Disability: A Digital Reader: On September 1879, Richard Silas Rhodes (1842-1902), president of a publishing company in Chicago, received a patent for his “Audiphone for the Deaf” his various improvements to the device. (U.S. Patent No. 319,828). Rhodes had conductive hearing loss[1] for twenty years following a bout of… Continue Reading

  • Webster’s Otaphone

    I wrote a new entry over at Nineteenth-Century Disability: A Digital Reader: UK patent #7033, dated 17 March 1836, is the earliest British patent for a hearing aid device, granted to the aurist (19th century term for ear specialist) Alphonso William Webster, for his “curious” invention, the Otaphone (sometimes spelled “Otophone”). In his publication, A New and Familiar Treatise on… Continue Reading

  • The Artificial Tympanum

    Perforation of the eardrum (tympanic membrane or tympanum) is a very common injury to the ear, often resulting from ear infection, trauma (damn those Q-tips!), loud noise, or blockages in the Eustachian tubes. Most cases the damage is minor and the drum heals quickly on its own, but other cases bring about hearing loss, and… Continue Reading

  • REVIEW: “Performing Medicine” by Michael Brown

    Performing Medicine; Medical Culture and Identity in Provincial England, c.1760-1850 (Manchester & New York: Manchester University Press, 2011), 254pp. I get excited when I receive a new book that so wonderfully engages with some of the major themes covered in my dissertation, and even better, a book that nicely contextualizes the background upon which I… Continue Reading

  • French Perspectives on Eustachian Tube Catheterization

    Earlier I wrote about Sir Astley Cooper and his procedure of tympanic membrane perforation as a remedy for deafness. While in Britain there wasn’t tremendous grounds being made in aural surgery, the situation was quite different in France, as surgeons made more advancements in Eustachian tube catheterization as a remedy than their British counterparts.  By the… Continue Reading

  • 61 Questions

    In Advice to the Deaf: The Present State of Aural Surgery (1840), John Harrison Curtis addressed to deaf individuals the importance of seeking out an aurist to receive a through examination of the ear. Acknowledging that some of his distant patients might be unable to find a skilled aurist in the countryside, Curtis describes how he put… Continue Reading

  • The “Popular Prejudice”

    Throughout my research of nineteenth century works on aural surgery, as well as works on deafness and education for the deaf, I’ve come across the phrase “popular prejudice” often enough to warrant some analysis. The phrase reflects two crucial aspects of how deafness was perceived as a social image: Firstly, deaf-mutes were constructed as social… Continue Reading

  • Leigh’s New Picture of London

    On the London Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb (est. 1792): By this excellent institution, extensive and successful arrangements are made to teach even the deaf and dumb! So long ago as 1653, the celebrated Dr. Wallis first laid down the principles by which the deaf and dumb might be instructed, (Vide the Philosophical Transactions… Continue Reading

  • Deaf World/Hearing World

    As some of you may have gathered from my Tweets, my paper has been selected for the Deaf World/Hearing World: Spaces, Techniques, and Things in Culture and History Conference to take place on December 10-11 in Berlin. The conference is sponsored by the Max Planck Institute and Project Biocultures at the University of Chicago. The… Continue Reading