Tin ears

Join Our Community Subscribe to Paul's Posts

For years I have heard the term tin eared referring to someone without a lot of hearing acuity—the opposite of a golden eared listener. In fact, the dictionary defines tin ear (plural tin ears) (idiomatic) Insensitivity to and inability to appreciate the elements of performed music or the rhythm, elegance, or nuances of language. (idiomatic) Insensitivity to the nuances of the current situation or the subtleties of a craft; indifference to somebody else’s attitudes and moods.

Turns out that while this all may be true today, there’s a long ago history of that word. As early as the 17th century, hearing loss was helped by what was known as an ear trumpet.

The ear trumpet became increasingly popular so that by the late 1800s and early 1900s, tinsmiths were hammering out custom tin ear trumpets by the thousands.

And yes, you guessed it, people who used a tin ear trumpet became known as tin eared (I am sure not a very nice name).

So the next time someone refers to a tin eared listener, you’ll know where it came from.