My toddler was not learning to talk the way his brothers did… Was something wrong? My search for answers in the science of sound and language is a journey into the mysteries of the human brain.
My third son, Alex, was nearly two when he was identified with significant hearing loss that was likely to get worse. My sweet boy with the big brown eyes had probably never heard my lullabies.
I 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 we too often take for granted? How would he communicate? Would he learn to read and write—weren’t phonics a key to literacy? How long did we have until Alex’s brain changed irrevocably? In my drive to understand the choices—starting with the politically loaded debate between American Sign Language and the controversial but revolutionary cochlear implant—I soon found that every decision carried weighty scientific, social and even political implications. As I 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, I 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. Hearing, through sound, is inextricably linked to language and through language to literacy.
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.