Can You Hear Me Now? Nope.


Did you see that video of the time-traveling lady at the Hollywood premiere of Charlie Chaplin's 1928 film "The Circus?"

You didn't?

Check out the video here. Now, it does really look like the woman is adopting the all-too-familiar posture of someone exchanging inanities with her BFF by phone as she strolls down the street. Irish filmmaker George Clarke made headlines a few days ago after noticing the segment on the DVD extras for the movie and pointing out how eerily similar her posture was to cell-phone hunch.

But save your jokes about why she can get service in 1928 and you can't even get it in the damn living room. It's most likely an ear trumpet, an early hearing aid, according to Philip Skroska at Washington University's Bernard Becker Medical Library.

LiveScience Magazine contacted Skroska, who was happy to take a look at the clip and offer an informed opinion.

"If you'd seen that video 30 years ago, it wouldn't have even occurred to you" that it was a cell phone, Skroska tells Daily RFT. When most people think of an ear trumpet, they think of a huge, cartoonish object jutting way out from someone's ear. Yet, "most people really aren't that keen on letting people know they have some kind of hearing disability," Skroska says. Even in 1928, he explains, an ear trumpet might have been small and, dare we say it, iPhone-like in proportion.

... Or maybe she was just fixing her hat. Who knows.

If you'd like to take a look at some older hearing devices, check out Deafness in Disguise, the Becker-sponsored Web site that showcases them. You can even take a real-life peek at some of their finest examples at the Missouri History Museum's exhibit, The Americans With Disabilities Act: Twenty Years Later.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.