A memoir of hearing loss and what the author learned about the subject in general through her unexpected recovery from it.
A good writer knows material when it presents itself, and Bathurst (The Bicycle Book, 2011, etc.) is a very good writer. In 2004, when she found herself “not completely deaf, just down to about 30 percent of normal hearing,” she recognized that she had a rich vein to mine—though perhaps not immediately, for she was pretty much in denial. Hearing loss was for the old and infirm, and she was neither. She resisted hearing aids, and she went about her journalistic work as if nothing were amiss. It was only later, when transcribing interviews, that she would recognize the gaps of incomprehension, realizing that she had failed to pick up on verbal cues her subjects had given her and that she had proceeded to ask questions that had nothing to do with the previous response. She experienced depression, and she learned how common it is to try to hide the condition. “If I had behaved like an island, then why the hell should it be a surprise when I became one?” she asks, referring to the way she held others at arm’s length, accused of not really listening to them even when her hearing had been at full strength. “As it happened, it turned out to be a very overcrowded island. Though I didn’t realize it at the time deafness is a very common problem, as is not talking about deafness.” The author surveys the fields where hearing is most threatened, from music to the military, and why society as a whole often ignores it. Bathurst writes with a command of the way words sound: “And under it all the susurration of the sea itself,” she writes of a sailing expedition imperiled by her limited hearing. “The shush it makes as it slides along the hull, fast or slow, urgent or gentle, its mesmerizing endlessness.”
An illuminating memoir of hearing lost and found.