‘Invisible yet potent helps’: Technologies Between Deafness and Hearing

'Invisible yet potent helps': Technologies Between Deafness and Hearing

Assistant Prof Jaipreet VirdiZoom

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Hearing aids have always been designed to be concealed. From nineteenth-century ear trumpets obscured in fans, hats, or vases, to early twentieth-century vacuum tubes built within purses and camera bags, invisibility was a predominant feature and selling point. With the inventions of the transistor, printed circuit, and button battery, devices created after the Second World War drastically reduced in size, shifting from being “body-worn,” to worn behind or inside the ear. Despite technological advancements towards miniaturization, however, many hearing aids models were designed for aesthetic appeal: hammered aluminum chassis, gold filigree microphone grills, art deco decorative features, and a range of colors and shapes made hearing aids fashionable. Nevertheless, these devices were still promoted to be concealed when worn, even as users were modifying and adjusting their hearing aids to bring together fashion and style to affirm their deaf identity. Drawing from material and visual culture, this presentation examines how fashion both contrasted, and heightened, design trends of invisibility featured in hearing aids.

University of Delaware, USA
Fri 16:30 - 18:00