Jaipreet Virdi
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Between cure and prosthesis
‘Good fit’ in artificial eardrums
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Placing the history of artificial eardrums against the backdrop of medical consumerism and advertising culture, this chapter reveals how the commericalisation of assistive technologies can blur the boundaries between prosthetics and cures. Unlike assistive aids to hearing, artificial eardrums were initially constructed as a surgical prosthetic, a replacement of a damaged part to become integrated with a user’s body. By the 1880s, however, the device captured the imagination of British and American inventors and new manufacturing firms who distanced the surgical mark of the device while still adhering to standards of its design. As the device was invisible to both the observer and the wearer, their promotion as ‘cure’ rendered deafness as a sigma, a misery that required medico-technological intervention to integrate the deaf person into hearing society.

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