Victorian London - Health and Hygiene - Disability - deafness

... Torn, the third brother, was very big and stout, and moreover was absolutely stone-deaf. He attributed this to being close to a great gun while it was being fired; the concussion broke the drums of his ears; but whatever was the cause, the effect was very trying. He was so deaf that he could not modulate his voice at all, and would sometimes whisper the most ordinary remarks, as if they were State secrets, while at other times, notably at the private view of the Royal Academy, he would yell criticisms of the pictures at us which were certainly not meant for the public to hear. Then he would thrust a porcelain slate that he always kept attached to his coat into our hands, and wait for us to write down a reply to what he had just said. I do not know anything more trying than this mode of communication, and as in those days lip-reading had not been invented, the conversations were usually very one-sided. I wish Mr. Tom Landseer could have communicated with us in some other way, for he was a most amusing man, and always made us laugh hilariously, but more from his manner than from anything he said, I fancy.

Mrs. J.E. Panton, Leaves from a Life, 1908