“The question then no longer becomes how a disability can be “fixed,” which is a question aimed at the individual. Instead, the much more dangerous societal question is pushed to the center: why society is obsessed with normality–of fixing–instead of examining and doing something with the underlying stigmatizing and discriminatory assumptions and structural…Hearing Happiness‘ most important contribution is not a historical review of various medical aids for the deaf and hard of hearing. Rather, it gives us analytical tools to be able to write history and political tools to investigate how illness, abnormality or disability is created in today’s society.” –Ketil Slagstad, Morgenbladet (Norwegian)
“The central challenge with hearing loss is not the need to restore hearing but to restore communication. As Virdi remembers, her mother was mostly frustrated by her inability to communicate with her daughter after her hearing loss (p. 265). That is a perspective of hearing persons, which deserves just as much attention as Virdi’s, who feels “connected to the distant past, to people who felt the same as I did, who experienced the same stigma, and who, in their own ways and own negotiations for a cure, found themselves” (p. 267). This monograph is a highly readable exploration of medical history on the basis of sound archival resources, exploring the question of what hearing means for identity formation.” –Anja Werner, H-Soz-Kult (German)
“The adage, “the personal is political,” is very much apparent. Hearing Happiness deployed a rich use of biography to illustrate our relationships with our impairments and bodies. Virdi offered intimate readings of deaf lives, including that of artist Dorothy Brett, to demonstrate relationships between people and their assistive devices, and how those relationships drove innovation. Here, the narration is enriched with Virdi’s account of her lived experience as a deaf person, recounting her family’s response to her deafness, her relationship with hearing aid dealers, and even trying on equipment in the archives. Those biographies illustrated sites of choice, agency, and disability. -Octavian E. Robinson, Endeavour
“Overall, the book raises many interesting questions of this kind, particularly questions about Deaf identity and constructions of deafness, questions that need our continued interrogation. While Virdi cautions that the book is not about Deaf culture, it does represent an aspect of it. It also opens the way for future experiments by other deaf scholars, particularly historians, to employ deaf epistemologies—“deaf way[s] of knowing” (Holcomb, 2010), deaf rhetorics of writing—in the telling of our collective history.” –Pamela L. Kincheloe, American Annals of the Deaf
“[T]his is the most striking outcome of Virdi’s research–hearing-aid sales campaigns have always focused more on how good you will look than on how well you will hear.” -Jonathan Rée, Times Literary Supplement
“Virdi offers an in-depth analysis of this technological development and the obsession of medical science, media, and consumers to find a cure for deafness; at the same time, she also draws attention to the individuality of the deaf person who might not consider deafness as a tragedy that needs to be repaired. She argues that we should acknowledge the autonomy of choice and the diversity of the deaf persons who might not be willing to embrace the possible technological solution to get assimilated into the hearing world…Through its rich account of man-machine interaction leading to the generation of a complex order of identities, Hearing Happiness becomes a fruitful addition to the research narratives on entangled subjectivities and medical prosthetics.” –Manali Karmakar, Medical Humanities
“Methodologically, Hearing Happiness is path-breaking. Into a panoramic historical analysis, Virdi integrates her own experiences with hearing loss, hearing aids, oral communication and navigating a world that presumes typical hearing. Her first-person accounts, and those of numerous other deaf people, ground this history in the humanity of people seeking ‘hearing happiness’ and of those on whom this expectation is imposed. The wide-ranging ways individuals responded to hearing technologies and promises of cure complicate the broader history of people who identify as culturally deaf, those who do not and others who shift between and beyond these realms.” –Susan Burch, Social History of Medicine
“The most striking thing about Jaipreet Virdi’s book is how it confirms that hearing loss isn’t a minor annoyance that afflicts a few people. Rather, with tremendous archival work, she shows us that, over the past three centuries, Anglo-American culture has been virtually obsessed with trying to cure deafness. The deaf person becomes the icon of the diminished citizen. The sheer number of nostrums, remedies, devices and surgeries devoted to the remedying of hearing loss is staggering. Yet the economic investment and advertising outreach are also indications of a more general insistence that deafness is a misery, that cure is a necessity and that hearing provides “happiness”.” –Lennard Davis, Times Higher Education
“It’s a special gift for a history like this. Virdi is interested in the efficacy of various deafness cures only inasmuch as they demonstrate the huge variety of choices and experiences deaf and hard of hearing people have had in navigating a hearing world. That is, this is not a book about debunking quackery. It is something much more interesting: a history of who makes decisions about what is normal, who is designated impaired or disabled, who determines such criteria, and how people who experience different types of hearing loss have understood their own bodies and identities.” –Anna Reser, Lady Science.
“Books like “Hearing Happiness”… offer insight into the history of disability and ideas for building on the ADA’s foundation of basic protections to create a more just world for the variety of humans who inhabit it.” –Anna Leahy, Washington Post.
“Part memoir, part historical monograph, Virdi’s Hearing Happiness…breaks the mold for academic press publications.” –Alex Green, Publisher’s Weekly
“A well-rounded history of deafness and its associated pseudo-curative “quackery.” In an effective amalgam of research and memoir, Virdi astutely traces hearing loss treatments and attitudes from the mid-1800s through the modern era. She also incorporates her personal struggles with deafness throughout her life, which lends the narrative a sense of depth and intimacy beyond the more clinical analysis. … A sweeping chronology of human deafness fortified with the author’s personal struggles and triumphs.” – Kirkus Reviews
“…informative and engaging…” – Ms Magazine
“This book is full of hearing history…shocking & sad as well as fascinating…If you’ve ever been curious about the world of the hearing impaired or Deaf (which is the same world you share) this is an informative read.” -Lolly K. Dandeneau, author of bookstalkerblog
“Poetically weaving her own experiences as a deaf person into a history of hearing loss, Virdi makes a compelling argument that deafness is much a cultural construct as it is a physical phenomenon. Rigorously researched and eminently readable, Hearing Happiness is packed with historical gems that will fascinate any reader.” –Lindsey Fitzharris, author of The Butchering Art.
“Everyone needs to read this fascinating history of hearing loss, technology, medicine, and audism. In examining deafness cures and sharing her own personal story, Virdi reveals society’s ever-evolving processes in creating and enforcing normalcy.” –Alice Wong, founder and director of Disability Visibility
“I always love reading books by deaf authors who grew up mainstream like me. If you want to learn about mainstreamed deaf people and the medical mysteries of deafness and its history, read this book! Virdi shares lots of fascinating information that I never knew before.” –Rikki Poynter, Youtuber and deaf activist
“Hearing Happiness is smart, captivating, and immensely important. We can only grow as a society when we listen to the people we’ve placed on the fringes of it. Deaf people don’t need cures—they deserve respect and support. If you want to be a person on the front lines of necessary change, start with this book!” –Keah Brown, creator of #DisabledAndCute and author of The Pretty One
“Told with clarity and compassion, Virdi’s moving story will resonate with any reader seeking to understand what it truly is like to be deaf in the US.” –Cäsar Jacobson, activist, author, and actor
“Hearing Happiness provides so much surprising and interesting historical information, as well as many answers about audism, the history of technology, and our perception of hearing loss. Virdi’s personal story is moving, and her research takes us on all kinds of trips back in time. Fascinating.” –Ilya Kaminsky, author of 2019 National Book Award finalist for Deaf Republic
“Virdi has written a landmark study in the history of technology: one that shows in powerfully specific and deeply personal ways how technologies construct social norms and mold the way we live. Her nuanced account of the history of technologies designed to ‘cure’ the way that certain people experience the world is a powerful testament to the need for people from marginalized groups to have a seat at the table when technological fixes are proffered by tech corporations and the medical establishment.” –Mar Hicks, author of Programmed Inequality
“This book is something special. The subtitle is a clever hook that will draw in fans of Mary Roach and medical history, but this book does more than walk us through historic cures for deafness. Virdi’s investigation is personal as well as historical, and she shares what it was like to grow up deaf in a world obsessed with fixing her. This book raises ethical questions that encourage readers to look beyond the quackery of the past and consider the disability rights (or lack thereof) of the present.” –Emma R.