“For years, I was stuck in limbo between two worlds: never quite deaf enough or quite hearing enough to perfectly fit in one side or another.” Jaipreet Virdi, author of Hearing Happiness: Deafness Cures in History, captures her struggles after meningitis robbed her of her hearing at the age of four while living in Kuwait with her Sikh parents.
Virdi intersperses her story within a well-researched and informative history of the treatments and “cures” for deafness since 1860. As a historian, the author culled collections, libraries, archives, and museums to document the trail of trends and remedies for patients seeking a miracle or assistance for their affliction. Treatments ranged from puncturing the eardrum to Muncie’s non-invasive finger surgery, designed to correct tubal irregularities. I learned more about ear anatomy and functions from reading this book than in any biology class.
Virdi included personal stories of people who were impacted from the procedures many hoped would end their deafness. She also highlighted the fraudulent practices and emphasized the sheer desperation victims suffered when most of the assured procedures failed to deliver. I appreciated all the advertisements, reflecting the advances in hearing aids. From ear trumpets to portable battery packs, scientists and salesmen sought to alleviate the silence.
It is also a study in scientific development for hearing devices, their advances and ingenuity in design and comfort. Virdi discusses her own resistance to upgrading her hearing aids. She was comfortable with one particular style, after experimenting with many. However, she was forced to switch over to digital hearing aids when her analog model was discontinued. While the new technology enhanced her hearing, it also brought on torturous migraines as her body acclimated to digitized devices.
Virdi’s book offers an educational and personal exploration of the cultural history for treatment of deafness. She provides an engrossing examination of the remedies and ministrations that display the spectrum of diversity within the deaf community. Virdi’s research proffers a strong voice for every person who is impacted by the inability to hear.