Theremin for the Deaf

Research output: Non-traditional research outputExhibition


Imagine a world without acoustics: The beauty of Bach’s sonatas would never have graced the ears of captive audiences through the past centuries, and the spectacular Lady Gaga would likely still be known simply as Stefani Germanotta — if her name was known at all. Without sound waves there would be no music — at least that has been the prevailing opinion thus far. But for around 500,000 people worldwide (EURO-CIU 2017), hearing is not bound to acoustics. These people wear a cochlear implant (CI), a hearing aid implanted in the inner ear of the auditory system which makes it possible to hear more than just Lady Gaga and Bach. Although the function of the CI can and has been explained, attempting to show that the perception of a defined sound can be conveyed with the absence sound waves remains unexplored. Yet, this type of hearing aesthetics is an integral part of the CI user’s daily life; they are not only able to receive acoustic signals, but furthermore have access to the electrical and electromagnetic environment. In 2018, a project titled “Theremin for the Deaf” was conducted in Berlin, Germany which explored both theoretical and practical consequences of CI user’s experience of sound without acoustics. By pairing those implications with a Theremin — a musical instrument that does not necessarily requires acoustics — the project aimed to provoke a reassessment of the relationship between acoustics and ear. Bypassing the auditory link in this way creates the problem of understanding of hearing in a new way which is no longer dependent on the irritation of the ear with air pressure. Finally, the “Theremin for the Deaf” turns a hearing prosthesis into a hearing extension by showing the media technology’s actual potential.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherDepartment for Media Theories at the Institute for Musicology and Media Studies at Humboldt University, Berlin.
Media of outputOnline
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Theremin for the Deaf'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this