Testing Hearing: An Introduction ALEXANDRA HUI, MARA MILLS, and VIKTORIA TKACZYK
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 due to injury compensation laws and professional demands for aptitude testing. Applied at 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.