I’ve only read the first hundred pages. But so far, Katherine Bouton’s book, Shouting Won’t Help…Why I–and 50 Million Other Americans–Can’t Hear You, has been like an out-of-body experience. It’s as if someone who was living in my head for the past ten years finally escaped and wrote a book about the experience of being me.
This book is a MUST READ for anyone with hearing loss, and ESPECIALLY for anyone living with someone with hearing loss.
Katherine Bouton lived for years with severe hearing loss but kept it to herself. The cycle she describes of denial, depression, isolation, anger and denial again — before ultimately finding her way to acceptance — will be familiar to all who have lived through it. And because she was a writer and editor for The New Yorker and The New York Times for more than 25 years, she knows how to tell her story and all the facts that go along with it in a way that’s easy for anyone to understand. Do I dare say that it’s even entertaining?
I’ll write more about Shouting Won’t Help once I’ve finished it. In the meantime, here’s a short excerpt from the introduction that sums up so much of the experience of hearing loss:
It was only when I lost my hearing that I became aware of how important hearing is in establishing one’s sense of place. Hearing anchors you in the world. It puts you at the center of a multidimensional universe. We hear things behind us, above us; we hear our stomachs rumble and our hearts beat. We hear in the dark; we hear in a cave or windowless cell. We hear in our sleep. Sometimes we hear in a coma. Babies hear in the womb. We hear as we breathe–effortlessly–until we can’t.
Helen Keller famously said that she regarded deafness as “a much worse misfortune” than blindness, because it cut the sufferer off from “the intellectual company of man.” She would have been amazed and grateful to have the amount of hearing I have, with all my technology. But even with hearing aids and cochlear implants and other hearing-assistive technology, hearing-impaired people still often feel cut off.
It’s exhausting to work so hard to hear. It takes a toll on your cognitive ability. But the longer I live and hear with my devices, the more grateful I am to have them, and the more confidence I have to try new things that I would have avoided during the early years of the severe phase of my loss. Hearing impairment will always be an impediment, but it no longer defines me. I’ve stopped thinking of myself as hearing impaired, and started thinking of myself as someone with a hearing impairment….
—Katherine Bouton, Shouting Won’t Help