Testing Hearing: An Introduction

Mara Mills, Alexandra Hui, Viktoria Tkaczyk

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This introduction frames Testing Hearing: The Making of Modern Aurality by showing how the modern cultural practices of hearing and testing have emerged from a long interrelationship. Since the early nineteenth century, auditory test tools and the results of hearing tests have fed back into instrument calibration, human training, architecture, and new musical sounds. Hearing tests received a further boost around 1900 as a result of injury compensation laws and professional demands for aptitude testing. Applied on a large scale, tests of seemingly small measure—of auditory acuity, of hearing range—helped redefine the modern concept of hearing as such. During the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the epistemic function of hearing expanded. Hearing took on the dual role of test object and test instrument; in the latter case, human hearing became a gauge by which to evaluate or regulate materials, nonhuman organisms, equipment, and technological systems. Testing hearing has been an enduring cultural technique in the modern period, situated between histories of scientific experimentation and fields of application.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTesting Hearing: The Making of Modern Aurality
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages19
StatePublished - 2020


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