• The Otophone

    In the 1870s, E.B. Meyrowitz, an optician in New York City, established a surgical instrument company. By 1887, the company began manufacturing acoustic aids for the deaf, the most prominent of which was the Otophone*. The device was invented by James A. Maloney, who filed for a patent the same year, for a hearing aid… Continue Reading

  • Actina: A Wonder of the 19th Century

    The history of the Actina, an “electric pocket battery” claimed to cure eye and ear diseases, rightly began in a manufacturing factory in Bristol, England. There, William C. Wilson, born in 1837 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, started a company in the 1870s selling “galvano-magnetic clothing.” After working as an apprentice cabinet maker and an auctioneer in London,… Continue Reading

  • Apparatus for Church

    An 1883 article in Scientific American narrated how a New Jersey clergyman’s deaf wife was finally able to hear her husband’s sermons in church with the aid of an apparatus. As illustrated in the engraving, the apparatus connected a series of trumpets underneath the church floor, connecting the preacher’s desk to the pews, so that the wife… Continue Reading

  • Technology & Deafness

    What can the history of technology tell us about the lived experiences and cultural history of the hearing impaired? During the nineteenth century, acoustic aids became ubiquitous objects, varying in design, form, and amplification. The “Deafness in Disguise” exhibit at the Bernard Becker Medical Library brilliantly narrates the multitude of aids that were available for… Continue Reading

  • Deaf Soundscapes

    This is the story of how my professor threw chalk at me. During my second year of undergraduate studies, I took a Philosophy of Mind class that started at 8:30am. I’m far from what you would call a “morning person,” but that was the year I was steadfastly increasing my love affair with cognitive science… Continue Reading

  • Auricular Training & The Little Deaf Child

    I came across a copy of The Little Deaf Child: A Book for Parents, a short book published in 1928 reassuring parents of deaf children that with proper training and education, there was hope for their children. The book was written by John Dutton Wright (1866-1952), the founder and director of the Wright Oral School in New… Continue Reading

  • Wilson’s Common Sense Ear Drums

    George H. Wilson (1866-1949) of Louisville, Kentucky, received a patent (U.S. #476,853) for his “rimless [and] self-ventilating” artificial eardrum in 1892. Often referred as “wireless phones for the ears,” the device was made of rubber, designed to be simple in construction and “so shaped that it can be quickly and readily removed and replaced without… Continue Reading

  • Experiences of a Deaf Man

    From The Albion Magazine (1907): When a man suddenly becomes deaf there is little or nothing he would shrink from if it afforded, or seemed to afford, the smallest chance that he would recover the enjoyment of a sense which he never properly valued until he lost it. About sixteen years ago, when well advanced in life,… Continue Reading

  • Switching On Hearing

    It’s an iconic and powerful photo. The face of a young child, born deaf, hearing sounds for the first time. Jack Bradley, photojournalist from the Peoria Journal Star, captured the exact moment a doctor fitted five year old Harold Whittles with an earpiece and turned on the hearing aid. First printed in the February 1974… Continue Reading

  • The Pressures of Silence

    I’ve been busy this month helping my mom organize the boxes of photographs and old documents at her house. The best part of this project? When I come across documents from my childhood that I’ve long forgotten about, but thanks to my mom, have been carefully preserved. When I was 12, my English assignment was… Continue Reading

  • Dieting Deafness Away

    I’m sure some of you have heard of London-based undertaker William Banting (1797-1878), who was the first to popularize a low-carb diet that formed the basis of modern-day diets (think Atkins). Banting was an upper middle-class funeral director whose family held the Royal Warrant for burials for five generations, until 1928; George III, George IV,… Continue Reading