28 June 2021

Thomas Edison listened with his teeth

"Thomas Alva Edison listened with his teeth. The inventor of the phonograph was completely deaf in one ear and could barely hear in the other, the result of a mysterious affliction in his childhood. To appreciate a delicate tune emanating from a music player or piano, he would chomp into the wood and absorb the sound waves into his skull. From there they would pass through the cochlea and into the auditory nerve, which would ferry the melody to his prodigious brain. Edison’s approach to music consumption had curious side effects, beyond the visible bite marks all over his phonographs. He couldn’t hear at the highest frequencies, couldn’t stand vocal vibrato, and declared Mozart’s music an affront to melody. But his inner ear was so sensitive that he could dazzle sound engineers by pinpointing subtle flaws in their recordings, such as a squeaky flute key among the woodwinds."
More information in a story at The Atlantic.  Credit for the photo of Edison's wood-frame-mounted phonograph to Ron E. at Tech Talk


  1. Beethoven is reported to have done this too, holding a stick in his teeth and pressing the other end against the sounding board of the piano. Perhaps this was during the period between about 1802 and about 1812, when his unassisted hearing was gradually declining to zero. His autopsy found that there wasn't enough inner-ear function left for him to benefit from bone conduction.

  2. I wonder if I could listen to J. Lo by gently biting on one of her body parts.

  3. Makes a change from lying through them.


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