Acoustic Instruments

I’ve pretty much been chained to my desk these days, struggling to write the most difficult chapter of my dissertation, which broadly focuses on the historiography of medical specialties and professionalization. The chapter also provides an analysis of how diagnostic instruments (and other medical technologies) served as a nexus for the crystallization of specialist medical identities in the case of aural surgery in early 19C London.

I’ll share some tidbits as I go along, but for the meantime, I ran across a quote by John Harrison Curtis, who, despite having earned a reputation for his acoustic instruments–particularly his hearing trumpet–became severely critical of the use of acoustic instruments as a replacement for surgical and medical treatments for ear diseases. That is, Curtis insisted the deaf population should not turn to instruments until all other medical means have been exhausted:

Acoustic instruments, like surgical operations, should always e the last things resorted to. Hundreds have permanently lost their hearing through using instruments, who might, by proper treatment adopted early, and adhered to, have been restored to the full possession of that important and valuable function.

…The constant use of any fixed acoustic instrument exhausted the energy of the auditory nerve, and will, sooner or later, lead to irremediable deafness, which no instrument can assist.

Advice to the Deaf (1841)

About these ads

2 thoughts on “Acoustic Instruments

    • I have a section of another chapter devoted to this discussion, and for a paper for the Bulletin of the History of Medicine–the paper is currently under revision. There, I draw on Jonathan Sterne’s work on sound culture (among others) in order to reveal some of the complex conceptual issues in the forming of aurists’ professional identity through the use of instrumentation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s