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Sound Advice for Deaf Ears

Gaining from Hearing Loss

Maybe it’s no coincidence that the discovery of my hearing loss roughly coincided with my oldest child becoming a teenager. As her childish shrieks of delight yielded to annoyed mumbling I found myself responding “what?” with greater frequency. Then I noticed that my wife’s voice was harder to understand, especially if she were facing away from me. And what of my recent reliance on subtitles when watching anything on TV? And so a few years ago, for the first time since my school days, I found myself with headphones on, straining to hear a series of high-pitched tones, triumphantly raising my hand with each right answer.

I did not pass. At least my deafness was congenital, and not the result of some long-forgotten “rock concert” I’d forced myself to attend in my wayward youth. “You’ve probably been dealing with this since your early 20s,” said the audiologist. So that’s why I’ve been so irritable all my life, I thought.

My hearing loss is enough to require hearing aids, but not so profound that it qualifies as a “handicap” (I checked). Nothing that countless seniors (including my mother) don’t deal with. I did feel a twinge of self pity (hearing aids?! Isn’t it enough that I’m a lifelong four-eyed freak?) but I consoled myself with a pair of top-of-the-line ReSound LiNX Quattros.

I’ve long accepted my mild deafness; it’s a handy reminder of human frailty and contingency that could’ve come at a far dearer price. I’ll be blessed if that’s my only cross to bear, health-wise. I’ve also fully incorporated it into my curmudgeonly, annoying Dad persona. “Come again?” I say innocently as my 15-year-old repeats her request for an urgent 9pm CVS make-up run. I’m thinking of enhancing the effect with an old-fashioned Victorian ear trumpet; Evelyn Waugh had lots of peevish fun with his. God help my daughters.


“No one is ever holy without suffering,” Waugh has Lady Cordelia Flyte say in Brideshead Revisited. Indeed, one of the main upsides to Christianity is its promise to transform physical and emotional pain into something edifying.

As a company committed to its founders’s Christian values, Gold River Trading Co. is well aware that accepting physical infirmity is virtuous. They’re also aware that careless indifference to our health is not. Which is why they make sure that their corn fiber tea sachets contain no harmful microplastics or glues. And now Align readers can get 10% off Gold River Trading Co. products by entering the code NOMICRO at checkout.


Anyone who has ever studied American Sign Language knows the richness of expression a non-verbal language can achieve. Keeping your mouth shut is also essential in situations calling for stealth. “My all-time favorite hand signal is ‘I don’t understand,'” writes Pew Pew Tactical‘s Travis Pike. “It’s the most common sense one of the bunch. Simply shrug and look like an idiot.”

Pike’s fascinating guide to U.S. military hand and arm signals also includes less intuitive but equally useful silent commands for “change direction,” “enemy in sight,” “commence fire,” and more.


For the Carthusian monks depicted in Philip Gröning’s 2017 documentary Into Great Silence, talking is largely a hindrance to experiencing the quiet in which God reveals Himself. The movie itself eschews the usual auditory enhancements of music and narration in its 162 minutes to create an immersive, meditative experience. The only extended human speech to break the serenity comes from a blind monk, interviewed in his cell towards the end of the film: “I often thank God that he let me be blinded. I am sure that he let this happen for the good of my soul.”


Adam Kissiah had no medical training. What he did have was a severe hearing problem that three surgeries had failed to correct and a determination to do something about it. Drawing on his experience as a NASA engineer, Kissiah spent years educating himself on the workings of the inner ear in his spare time in order to attack the problem mechanically. Hearing aids, which can only amplify sounds, are of no use in cases of severe or total deafness, in which the tiny hair cells that convert vibrations into electrical signals are damaged or dead. Kissiah’s innovation was to replace these hair cells with electrodes. His invention, the cochlear implant, has since allowed hundreds of thousands of profoundly deaf people to hear for the first time.