I Can Hear You Whisper
I Can Hear You Whisper
An Intimate Journey Through the Science of Sound and Language
Dutton Books, Hardcover, 9780525953791, 390pp.
Publication Date: April 17, 2014
A mother notices her toddler is not learning to talk the way his brothers did Is something wrong? Her search for answers is a journey into the mysteries of the human brain.
Lydia Denworth's third son, Alex, was nearly two when he was identified with significant hearing loss that was likely to get worse. Her sweet boy with the big brown eyes had probably never heard herlullabies.
Denworth knew the importance of enrichment to the developing brain but had never contemplated the opposite: Deprivation. How would a child's brain grow outside the world of sound most of us take for granted? How would he communicate? Would he learn to read and write weren t phonics a key to literacy? How long did they have until Alex's brain changed irrevocably? In her drive to understand the choices starting with the angry debate between supporters of American Sign Language and the controversial but revolutionary cochlear implant Denworth soon found that every decision carried weighty scientific, social and even political implications. As she grappled with the complex collisions between the emerging field of brain plasticity, the possibilities of modern technology, and the changing culture of the Deaf community, she gained a new appreciation of the exquisite relationship between sound, language and learning. It became clear that Alex's ears and indeed everyone's were just the beginning.
An acclaimed science journalist as well as a mother, Denworth interviewed the world's experts on language development, inventors of ground-breaking technology, Deaf leaders, and neuroscientists at the frontiers of research. She presents insights from studies of everything from at-risk kids in Head Start to noisy cocktail party conversation, from songbirds to signal processing, and from the invention of the telephone to sign language.
Weaving together tales from the centuries-long quest to develop the cochlear implant and simultaneous leaps in neuroscientific knowledge against a tumultuous backdrop of identity politics, "I Can Hear You Whisper "shows how sound sculpts our children's brains and the life changing consequences of that delicate process.
Praise for I Can Hear You Whisper
"In this moving and informative book, former Newsweek reporter Denworth recounts her emotional and intellectual quest to help her deaf infant son hear. [...] This is a book that parents, particularly of deaf children, may find indispensable." - Publishers Weekly
"All parents will recognize the moments of both terror and pride that mark the journey; parents of deaf children will garner both information and insights." - Kirkus Reviews
"Eloquently explains how hearing works...An excellent book for anyone with deafness in the family or with a desire to better understand how people hear, why hearing loss occurs, and how it is treated." - Booklist
“Lydia Denworth has written a beautiful book that combines superb scientific reporting with powerful and deeply enjoyable storytelling. Her quest to acquire every shred of knowledge she can to help her deaf son is an odyssey that all parents who worry about their children (i.e. all parents) can intimately relate to. Her discoveries about the workings of language and the intricacies of brain development will change the way you think about hearing, speaking, and selfhood. And her fascinating exploration of the politics of deaf identity is sure to spark a larger conversation about how we talk about, think about, and treat children with special needs in our time.” —Judith Warner, author of Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety
“Read this if you have ears or ever interact with humans. What a moving and brilliant tour of the scientific, emotional and political landscape of hearing impairment. As a reader, I'm grateful to Lydia Denworth. As a writer, I'm jealous.” —David Shenk, author of The Genius in All of Us and The Forgetting
“Denworth provides a lucid, engaging, and thoughtful description of the science of hearing. If you are interested in hearing, speech, and language —as a parent, educator, clinician, or scientist—this book fills an important gap and is a terrific read. Careful about the science and sensitive to the psychological complexities, Denworth provides a masterful account of the path from ear to the brain, from sounds to words.” —David Poeppel, Professor of Psychology and Neural Science, New York University
“Lydia Denworth’s beautiful personal account and thorough investigation connect the dots between her son’s hearing loss, the essential import of spoken language on the developing brain, and what parents, doctors, and teachers can gain from a deeper understanding of how the mind acquires language.” —Dana Suskind, MD, Professor of Surgery at the University of Chicago and Director of The Thirty Million Words Initiative
“I Can Hear You Whisper is both an affecting and searching personal story and a fascinating job of science reporting, specifically the science of audiology—how we hear, why some of us don't, and how an amazing, but controversial, technology was invented. Lydia Denworth’s son Alex, the beautiful boy at the center of the personal story, is lucky to have a mother like her. The rest of us are lucky to have such a perceptive, lucid, and touching book.” —Richard Bernstein, author of A Girl Named Faithful Plum