If you’re like me and you like to read books that touch on hearing loss, then I’ve got a book to recommend to you. If you enjoy books that touch on scientific subjects in layman’s terms, then I’ve really got a book to recommend to you.
It’s called I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey through the Science of Sound and Language, and it’s written by Lydia Denworth, a former Newsweek reporter and mom to three young boys – one of whom has a hearing loss and wears a cochlear implant.
The book was described as “an investigation into the science of hearing, child language acquisition, neuroplasticity, brain development, and Deaf culture.” I wasn’t sure if it was going to go over my head, but it sounded really interesting. I was happy to discover that it was written in a way that made all the scientific information easy to understand for someone like me, who never took more than Intro to Physical Science in 9th grade.
The author deftly weaves her personal experience into the story, describing what it was like to discover her son’s hearing loss and the process she went through as she tried to understand how it was going to impact his ability to acquire language, both spoken and written. If you have a child with a hearing loss, this would really be a valuable resource.
I learned SO MUCH by reading this book, things I never knew about cochlear implants (and I thought I knew a lot) and how they were developed. There are chapters on how we process speech, how we learn to read, the plasticity of the brain (which is so cool, and is one of the reasons I hear sounds with my cochlear implant now instead of the weird beeps and warbles I heard when it was first activated). She touches on Deaf culture, sign language, oral versus ASL – and all of these subjects, which can be so very touchy, are discussed in a calm, thoughtful way, with both sides presented fairly.
I was curious to see if the cochlear implant brand wars would be mentioned, or if she would show a bias toward the company who made her son’s implant (which is not the company that made mine). I was very happy to see that this did not come up at all. The book just presented the CI facts in a general way: How they were developed, the testing involved, what early CIs were like (my goodness!), the challenges of hearing in a noisy environment for CI users, listening to music, etc.
Some of her descriptions of her son Alex’s early testing brought back unexpected, vague memories for me of my own testing as a young child. When Alex suddenly lost all of his hearing and he told his mom, through cries and screams, “I can’t talk!” (because he can no longer hear himself talk) my heart went out to them both. That is still the most startling thing for me, not being able to hear myself talk when my CIs are off.
I thought it was awesome that they found a tutor to come in and teach some ASL to the family; when I went deaf, that was one thing I really wished we could have done. As she illustrates in the book, it’s not very easy to teach everyone ASL at once, especially young children. I admire their efforts, though, to bring sign language into Alex’s life as a complement to his CI.
I could have kept reading this book for days and days; I was sad when it ended. It gets five out of five big stars from me – look for it (e-book and hardcover versions) a month from today, April 17.
(I received this book from the publisher for the purposes of an honest review; my views are my own.)