Jaipreet Virdi
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Medicalising deafness in Victorian London
The Royal Ear Hospital, 1816–1900
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It was during the nineteenth century that specialist hospitals emerged, but medical specialisation was often ridiculed by general clinicians who took pride in having training and expertise that they felt equipped them to direct their skills at any kind of medical challenge. This chapter outlines the arguments put forward by those opposed to specialisation, tracing the evolution of the Royal Ear Hospital in London. It is a journey during which the scientific knowledge of the ear, and how to restore or improve its utility, made significant strides, but the hospital’s early battles evolved around establishing the medical credibility of its aural specialists. The chapter shows how specialist hospitals came to define the parameters of deafness as a disability or defect requiring a cure, how this perception has influenced wider societal views on the necessity of medical interventions ever since and how this is in stark contrast to counter views of deafness as a distinct cultural or linguistic identity.

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Disability and the Victorians

Attitudes, interventions, legacies


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