There’s a lot of talk about the fact that Hawkeye is canonically deaf in the comics (and uses hearing aids), but there’s rarely any mention of how this happened.
I think it’s important to remember Hawkeye didn’t just lose his hearing. He sacrificed it. It happens in the panels from the comic above, final issue of Hawkeye’s first solo limited, published in 1983 (written and penciled by Mark Gruenwald). In this comic, Hawkeye and Mockingbird (who he would marry at the end of the issue) are subjected to a sound that makes them go into a violent, uncontrollable rage. Hawkeye knows there’s a very good chance if he listens to this sound, he will beat Mockingbird to death.
This is a man who watched his father beat his mother. Who lost both his parents when his father forced his mother to drive with him when he was drunk. So when he’s faced with the possibility of becoming like his father, whether it’s of his own choice or not, and turning that kind of violence on a woman he loves, what does he do? He makes the decision to risk his own well being, to sacrifice one of his senses without knowing what the long term consequences will be, to prevent hurting her.
This is part of what makes Hawkeye’s deafness so important. It’s representation, yes, and we always need more of that in media. But it’s also a symbol of who he is, of who he’s willing to be. Yes, Hawkeye is the guy without any “real” powers, the guy who stands with the Avengers because he practiced until he got really, really good with arrows. But he’s also the guy who will put others first, who will do whatever needs to be done no matter the personal cost. Hawkeye’s deafness is a symbol of what makes him a hero, even without the powers.
Because that’s who Hawkeye is–the guy who shows that it doesn’t take a serum or a robot suit to be a hero. And his deafness is a reminder of that.