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Song Without Words: Discovering My Deafness Halfway through Life

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  • Posted March 16, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Gerald Shea's 1913 SONG WITHOUT WORDS: DISCOVERING MY DEAFNESS H

    Gerald Shea's 1913 SONG WITHOUT WORDS: DISCOVERING MY DEAFNESS HALFWAY THROUGH LIFE makes for pleasant, informative reading. I think of it as a "didactic memoir."  The author uses his own six plus decades of living in the USA, Saudi Arabia, France and elsewhere  to probe varieties and degrees of deafness.  ***  
    Born hearing, young Shea, without himself or anyone else noticing, at age six lost most of his middle and upper tonal hearing rage. The causes were, apparently, simultaneous attacks of chicken pox and scarlet fever. That his hearing was severely impaired was first noticed and proven during a medical examination a quarter century later!  ***  
    Astonishingly to more reader and reviewer than one, Gerald Shea, despite his severe and undiagnosed handicap, had navigated his way successfully through primary school, prep school, Yale University and Columbia Law School. The only two people even to come close to helping him discover his deafness had been two young women: girl friends in high school and in college. ***  
    Shea was in his 30s when he discovered that he was very, very deaf. He has spent the rest of his life coming to terms with that, eventually leaving his lucrative law practice for a less hectic, demanding life style.  ***  
    As he moves chronologically through his hearing-impaired decades, Gerald Shea lays out for us his self-created methods for coping with hearing sounds but not words coming at him from all directions. His hundreds of examples of "decoding" speech are perhaps the most compelling parts of his narrative.  ***  
    In addition, however, we learn much of the anatomy of the human ear, its connection to the brain, the history of deafness, the science and the education associated with deafness, hearing aids, cochlear implants, signing languages, the life of Helen Keller and much, much more.  ***  
    SONG WITHOUT WORDS is a good, instructive read. That a severely impaired but unusually intelligent and articulate person could go many years without becoming aware of his deafness is hard to believe. But there it is.  -OOO-

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