During the late 19th century, entrepreneurs began to glut the direct-to-consumer medical market with a plethora of remedies they professed could miraculously cure deafness. They claimed their remedies and machines fostered a world of unbridled optimism for providing “hope” to deaf ears. Even as medical specialists denounced these “cure-all” treatments as quackery in its finest form, the messages of restoring hearing would transfer over to the hearing aid industry.
The Dittrick Museum of Medical History will host an upcoming lecture focusing on the marketing of deafness cures—hearing trumpets, electrotherapy apparatuses, and hearing aids.
Jaipreet Virdi, associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Delaware, will give the annual Zverina Lecture with a presentation titled “Hearing Happiness: Deafness Cures in History” Thursday, Nov. 2, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the Allen Memorial Medical Library’s Zverina Room (third floor). There also will be an option to attend virtually via Zoom.
In this presentation, Virdi will unravel the many ways deaf people sought to restore or gain hearing. She will provide a history on the broad context for understanding the lived experiences of deaf people and how cultural pressures of normalcy significantly stigmatized deafness.
Born in Kuwait to Sikh parents, Virdi lost her hearing at age 4 to bacterial meningitis. A product of “mainstreamed” education, she learned to lip-read and rely on her hearing aids. Virdi received her doctorate from the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto. At the University of Delaware, she teaches courses on disability histories, the history of medicine and health activism. Her first book, Hearing Happiness: Deafness Cures in History was published in 2020 by the University of Chicago Press.