"The Ear is Our Customer," Courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center.
Project (2015-)

The History of Audiometry and the Construction of the Normal Auditory Threshold

This project addresses the history of electronic audiometry and its significance for the medicalization of deafness and the definition of “noise” in the telephone system. It frames electronic audiometry within the longer history of hearing measurement. Through a comparison between the audiogram and prior hearing charts, the following topics will be explored: the different ways the sense of hearing has been defined, dissected, and visualized; the range of cultural possibilities that have existed for “normal” hearing; and the means by which nineteenth-century categories such as “just noticeable differences” and “areas of sensation” were transformed by telephone engineers into transmission units and channel capacities.