'Hawkeye' Episode 1 Explained: Why Cliff Barton Has a Hearing Aid

Hawkeye Episode 1 is streaming now on Disney+, and gives us an update on what Cliff Barton's (played by Jeremy Renner) life is like post-Endgame. At the start of the show, he is sitting through a Broadway musical version of his adventures as an Avenger.

While the rest of the Bartons seem to be enjoying themselves, the ever-gumpy Cliff is not having any of it – in fact, he has turned off his hearing aid.

This hearing aid is a new feature of the character, leaving fans wondering when exactly the Avenger started losing his hearing.

Marvel comic readers may be more familiar with the character losing his hearing, this is the first time it has been mentioned in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) – and the reason for it is slightly different in the show than it was previously.

Why does Hawkeye have a hearing aid?

There are two main reasons for Hawkeye's deafness in the Disney+ show – one due to the character's history, and another that is important for the plot of the series.

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Jeremy Renner in "Hawkeye." The scene reveals that his character is now wearing a hearing aid. Disney+

Cliff Barton has previously lost his hearing in the comics

In the comics, many incarnations of Barton have been deaf or suffered from hearing loss.

In a 1983 Marvel miniseries, Barton becomes deaf after a sonic boom caused by the collision of sonic arrows fired by Hawkeye and the villain Crossfire. In other incarnations of the character, his hearing loss is as a result of abuse he suffered as a child.

Hawkeye's hearing loss shows the impact of being an Avenger

Neither of these backstories, however, explains why Barton wears a hearing aid now in the MCU.

Rather than blame his hearing loss on one specific event, Hawkeye implies that his hearing has simply deteriorated as a result of constantly having to be around loud noises – not a day goes by, for example, when an Avenger is not facing off against explosions, guns fired in close proximity and other high-decibel dangers. In Episode 2, Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) asks Barton what happened to his hearing, and we see some of the things that affected it – like smashing through plate glass windows and being too close to gigantic explosions.

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Screencap from "Hawkeye." Just one of the huge explosions that led to Cliff Barton's hearing deteriorating... Disney+

This continues a theme that the MCU has been exploring in recent years – the impact of being a superhero on the more human Avengers. While actual gods like Thor can get through fights with nary a scratch, all this hero action has had an impact on the less superpowered Avengers, whether that be physical (as in Barton's hearing loss or Black Widow's death) or mental (the Bucky Barnes' trauma, as explored in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier).

It also sets up a plot development that many have speculated will be central to the show – Cliff Barton training Kate Bishop to be the new Hawkeye. After all, nothing makes you realize you are mortal more than a deteriorating health condition, and if Barton feels his health is getting worse, he may feel that now is the time to do a Captain America and hang up his supersuit.

Hawkeye airs Wednesdays at midnight Pacific Time on Disney+.