Why Hawkeye Has Hearing Aids In His MCU Show

Why does Hawkeye have a hearing aid in Disney+'s Hawkeye TV show? Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye has been a staple of the MCU franchise despite being the butt of far too many jokes since his debut in Thor, and the Hawkeye hearing aid offers a stark reminder of what it cost him to be an Avenger. Having gone on to play key roles in The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, Clint Barton put his body through hell without the help of super soldier serum or God-like powers. And still, people seem to believe Hawkeye is the worst Avenger.

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Clint Barton's story appeared to close out alongside the culmination of Marvel's Infinity Saga. Thanks to the Avengers' time heist, those who disappeared at the behest of Thanos' snap were restored, and Barton returned to his family once again, five years older and carrying the emotional scars of his vigilante murdering spree as Ronin. And yet the stories of the original Avengers are far from over, with each of the core 6 heroes represented in the MCU's future one way or another. For Hawkeye's part, the eagle-eyed archer trains his skilled, overeager successor, Kate Bishop, as well as wrestling with Ronin's ghosts after Endgame, while adjusting his life to deal with his hearing loss.

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Hawkeye's battle with hearing loss derives from the Marvel Comics. In a 1983 miniseries, Hawkeye teams up with SHIELD's Mockingbird (played by Adrianne Palicki in Agents of SHIELD, incidentally) and encounters the supervillain known as Crossfire, who is building a sonic weapon to send superheroes into a frenzy. Using one of his own sonic arrows to counter the effects, Hawkeye is left predominantly deaf thanks to the ensuing bang. Although he later heals from this injury, the Clown physically stabs Barton's ears with two of his own arrows, giving another origin story for Hawkeye's hearing struggles. A 2014 comic later revealed that Clint's deafness began due to abuse suffered during childhood. Neither of those backstories is adapted into Clint Barton's MCU series, which establishes that Hawkeye is deaf as a result of repeated trauma on Avengers missions. A flashback montage shows him being injured during the events of The Avengers, Avengers: Age Of Ultron, and Avengers: Endgame. Here's the Hawkeye hearing aid explained.

How Hawkeye Lost His Hearing In The MCU After Endgame

While it isn't explicitly spelled out in Hawkeye, the cause of Hawkeye being deaf is known as noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), which can often follow extreme tinnitus. It's something that a significant proportion of ex-servicemen who repeatedly saw action without ear protection (which wasn't used in heavy rotation until the 1980s) face in their later life. NIHL doesn't necessarily need one trigger event, but Hawkeye's hearing loss is clearly a result of the cumulative impact of trauma, which offers a physical balance to the mental trauma that played such a key part in Iron Man's Phase 2 story arc. It also follows on from Black Widow revealing that Natasha's mission pack included Ibuprofen to deal with the damage she put her body through.

Introducing Clint Barton's hearing loss into the MCU is a very welcome story development for the character and one that will go a long way toward improving the representation of disability in the franchise. For all its critical acclaim, the MCU has previously been criticized for glossing over the human "weaknesses" of its superheroes - Tony Stark's alcoholism, for example. Hawkeye might've escaped his movie career without suffering any adverse effects, but since the Disney+ series is a passing of the torch from Clint Barton to Kate Bishop, it makes perfect sense to explore a more personal struggle and the more realistic side of superhero life.

Hawkeye's Hearing Aid And Echo's Intro Were Deaf Representation Landmarks

Hawkeye Ronin Echo

Hawkeye wasn't only an MCU representation landmark for showing Hawkeye's hearing aids but also the introduction of Maya/Echo (Alaqua Cox), a profoundly Deaf Marvel character who will soon have her own DIsney+ spinoff. The show represented different types of hearing loss, showing that one member of the Deaf community may understand sign language having been Deaf from birth, while some who develop it later may struggle to connect with others in the Deaf community through not being able to sign. Watching Hawkeye sign to Echo incorrectly (with the subtitles showing Barton accidentally asking for cookies in ASL) was a sweet way to show this potentially isolating disconnect. Similarly, Echo cannot damage her hands in a fight – they're her only way to communicate – so the show shaped her fighting style around this idea. Plus, the moment his hearing aids are stamped is a genuine heart-in-the-throat moment for any audience members who've worried about losing or damaging their window to the world.

A similar struggle was shown in the heart-rending Sound of Metal, but that's anticipated from Oscar fodder, not mainstream superhero content that can reach and inspire younger viewers. The Hawkeye hearing aids allow young fans who share his condition to identify with an Avenger, while also unveiling new, more human aspects to Clint Barton's character throughout Hawkeye. The show also demonstrated that there are different severities of hearing loss, and they affect the people who live with them in different ways. It explored a rare, human, vulnerable side to an Avenger in a new way. Jeremy Renner is also hard of hearing and Alaqua Cox is Deaf, meaning that young hearing aid users finally have both an Avenger and an extremely cool antihero to look up to who are played by actors with their lived experiences. Plus, it's finally an opportunity to have MCU merchandise serve a social purpose – imagine how many hearing-impaired and Deaf children would beg their parents for Hawkeye-branded Stark Tech hearing aids and how that would shatter the stigma of hearing devices not being "cool," leading to earlier diagnosis. Hawkeye was a real step forward that deserves more credit – and more follow-up from Marvel.

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2022-09-30T15:16:31.000Z

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