Hawkeye’s Hearing Loss Has Never Been MCU Canon. It Is Now.

·4-min read
Photo credit: Marvel Studios
Photo credit: Marvel Studios

One thing that's exciting about the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that actions, and events, have consequences. There's never a return to the status quo. One example: When James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) fell from the sky in Captain America: Civil War, he lost the use of his legs. This wasn't just written away by the middle of the next movie—he could not walk without the help of Tony Stark's technology ever again, setting up a tender moment three years later with Karen Gillan's Nebula in Avengers: Endgame. Marvel likes to do this kind of thing, and does it again in the new limited series Hawkeye, when Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) has paid the price for his years of Avenging.

In the first act of the first episode of Hawkeye, it's clear that something has changed with Clint Barton: he wears hearing aids now. As he and his children sit in on a performance of an Captain America-centric, Avengers-themed Broadway show called "Rogers: The Musical," it's clear that Clint is still a bit troubled by all of his years in the hero game (and the relatively recent loss of his close friends Tony Stark and Natasha Romanoff). So he drowns it all out by turning his hearing aids off, still present as a Dad to his kids. but not having to sit through any more of what was clearly giving him trouble.

His daughter, Lila, notices. And a natural conversation plays out. The show doesn't drone on this beat, or make it into a thing. Clint just wears hearing aids now. It's the second time in the last month that Marvel Studios has acknowledged a character being hard of hearing, following Makkari (Lauren Ridloff) in Eternals.

But in case you were wondering if maybe Hawkeye has always had hearing loss and you just haven't noticed, well, you didn't miss anything—this is a new development. But there's plenty good reason behind it.

Photo credit: Marvel Studios
Photo credit: Marvel Studios

So why does Clint Barton wear hearing aids in Hawkeye?

Hawkeye gives a perfectly reasonable answer for when and how, exactly, Clint had hearing loss: he doesn't quite know. But he's spent years and years in the hero game, and, uh, well, a regular guy (Clint is, you know, just a human) being present for all those explosions, and battles, and fights, can't be particularly good for someone's hearing.

The show has a brief flashback when Clint pictures a few of his memorable MCU moments: flying through the windows during the Battle of New York in The Avengers, a huge blast during Avengers: Age of Ultron, and helping protect the gauntlet during the climactic battle in Avengers: Endgame among others. And, just gonna say it: that's a pretty good reason. It's honestly a little shocking that more of the "just human" Avengers don't report on more long-term health issues. Maybe we'll start hearing about Scott Lang's arthritic knees or something in the next Ant-Man movie.

Throughout various points in his Marvel Comic history, Clint Barton has either had partial hearing loss, lost around 80% of his hearing, or lost his hearing entirely.

At one point in his comics history, Hawkeye was 80% deaf in the aftermath of a big battle. He was held captive by a villain named Crossfire, and while fighting another villain named Mockingbird, he bit down on a sonic arrow, which stopped the fight but permanently damaged his hearing.

Photo credit: Marvel Comics
Photo credit: Marvel Comics

Hawkeye's hearing was retconned during Marvel's "Heroes Reborn" period, but it was brought back into the story in Matt Fraction and David Aja's beloved run (which the Hawkeye series is largely based on). In that run, it's explained that Clint Barton had suffered partial hearing loss as a result of abuse at the hands of his father during his childhood.

It's not clear if he regained his hearing or simply covered it up, but Hawkeye goes fully deaf in that run after a villain called "The Clown" stuffs Clint's arrows into his ears. Clint initially won't accept the reality of what happens, but eventually identifies as being fully deaf in a touching moment with his paralysed (and wheelchair-bound) brother, Barney.

Clint Barton's hearing loss has become closely associated with the character; Marvel Studios taking the step to make the character match his comic counterpart (no matter the origin) in this manner should go a long way.

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