Experiencing Ear Trumpets in the Enlightenment

  • Free
  • Discussion
  • British Sign Language
  • Speech-to-text
Photo of a laptop with a video chat image of a man in a blue blazer. On the table are a jug with foliage, a candle and a watermelon on a chopping board
Exploring Research with Dr Ruben Verwaal, Photo: Kathleen Arundell. Portrait: Steven Pocock. Source: Wellcome Collection. Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0).

What you’ll do

Join Dr Ruben Verwaal to explore the oldest acoustic hearing aids in Wellcome Collection: the ear trumpet. 

You will learn about how ear trumpets were developed at the turn of the 18th century and why this large acoustic device became increasingly commonplace among the hard of hearing.

Joshua Reynolds, Elizabeth Vesey and James Hutton are some of the best-known ear-trumpet users in Georgian high society. This presentation will investigate the experiences of the hard of hearing as well as the perceptions of their interlocutors at art academies, science societies and church congregations, and show how these social contexts accepted the new technology as a means of increased participation.

About your speaker

Photograph of Dr Ruben Verwaal

Dr Ruben Verwaal

Ruben Verwaal has a PhD in History of Medicine from the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. He is currently researching medical perceptions and personal experiences of deafness and hardness of hearing in early modern Europe at the Institute for Medical Humanities, Durham. 



Need to know

Guaranteed (online)

Booking a ticket guarantees you entry to the online event. You will be given joining instructions in your confirmation email. If you have any access requests or requirements, for example a transcript of the event, email us at access@wellcomecollection.org or call 020 7611 2222.

British Sign Language

This event is British Sign Language interpreted. An interpreter will be embedded in the event stream/visible to all attendees and will interpret what is discussed into BSL for d/Deaf, hard of hearing and deafened attendees.


This event will have live speech-to-text transcription which may be useful for people who are D/deaf, hard of hearing, deafened or neurodiverse. The text will be embedded in the event video window and ticketholders will also receive a link to open subtitles in a separate window.

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