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I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey through the Science of Sound and Language Hardcover – April 17, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult; 1 edition (April 17, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525953795
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525953791
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In this science-laced story about her youngest son, Alex, veteran journalist Denworth eloquently explains how hearing works and fails. After she and her doctors figure out that Alex is silent because he doesn’t know what people are saying, he gets a cochlear implant at age two, which turns out to be a miraculous device. Denworth weaves her son’s story throughout her easy-to-understand primer on how people hear, listen, speak, and read. Reporter that she is—having worked at Newsweek and People and published stories in the New York Times—Denworth interviews many top experts and cites the work of researchers past and present. Back in 1929, for example, a scientist named Harvey Fletcher wrote, The processes of speaking and hearing are very intimately related, so much so that I have often said that we speak with our ears. We can listen without speaking but cannot speak without listening. Think about it. 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. --Karen Springen

Review

Praise for I Can Hear You Whisper

"Writing with clarity and style, Denworth serves as a capable guide to a world that few with full hearing are fully aware of...A skilled science translator, Denworth makes decibels, teslas and brain plasticity understandable to all." - Washington Post

"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

"I Can Hear You Whisper is a triptych of reportage, popular science, and memoir. As reportage into the controversy surrounding cochlear implants it's both timely and rigorous, though Denworth admits her own pro-implant bias. As popular science, it's enthralling, offering a window into the latest research into perception, language, and the weaving of conscious awareness. As a memoir it is tender and involving; accompanying Denworth and her son on their journey, and imagining making the same journey with my own children, I was often deeply moved." -- The New York Review of Books

"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

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Customer Reviews

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A thoroughly researched book.
lovebooks
Indeed, one of the many unexpected treasures in this book is a history of deaf culture and what it means to identify as deaf in a hearing world.
Reading In Brooklyn
All of it, the wonderfully clear, scientific background and the heartfelt stories, reveal much of this richness and many moments of courage.
Steven Paglierani

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By S. Fitzpatrick on April 21, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It would be a mistake to view this book as just some sort of guide for parents of children with hearing loss, for at its heart is nothing less than a wonderful story of what it means to be a parent. Indeed, while the book provides a fascinating and well-researched examination of the science, sociology and politics of hearing loss, its animating feature is the author’s voice. It is the voice of a loving mother with whom any parent will easily identify and cheer on.
Highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael Chorost on May 16, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The day after Lydia Denworth’s son Alex was born, he failed a routine hearing test given to all newborns. Probably just mucus in the ears, the nurse explained. It turned out not to be. Thanks to a congenital malformation, Alex had too little hearing in both ears to hear language.

This was a crisis not just of the ears but of the brain itself, as Denworth explains in her book. A brain that has not had full exposure to language by age three is unlikely to learn language fluently and naturally, with lifelong consequences for the child.

Denworth threw herself into researching how hearing, language, and cochlear implants work in order to help her son. The result is this book.

As a science writer Denworth has written up what she learned, and the result is so comprehensive, wide-ranging, and well-written that it is essential reading for any parent of a child with hearing loss. Denworth has gone further into the scientific literature than any other writer I know of on this subject, and she interviewed a Who’s Who of people involved in developing cochlear implants. The result is a fascinating and magisterial book.

The narrative line of the book begins with her early suspicions that something was wrong. At age two, Alex’s scores for receptive and expressive language were in the eighth and sixth percentiles respectively. They tried hearing aids, but ultimately opted for a cochlear implant.

The implant worked. Denworth writes,

Now, after one year of using the cochlear implant, the change was almost unbelievable. His expressive language had risen to the sixty -third percentile and his receptive language to the eigthty-eighth percentile. He was actually above age level on some measures. And that was compared to hearing children.
Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Georgia Getz on May 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who knows me knows I love to nap. The fact I haven't been able to lately is the fault of this amazing book written by Lydia Denworth. I can't put it down. You should read this book if you're curious about the mechanics of the ear or the science of hearing. You should read this if you're interested in the brain and how it develops and processes our senses, you should read this if you love beautiful and thoughtful prose, or well-researched everything, or appreciate the sweet scenes of family life absent of saccharine nostalgia. You should read this book if you're a parent or, certainly, if you are not a parent. You should read this if you are fascinated by the technology of the cochlear implant or attuned to the case made against it within parts of the deaf culture. You should read this book if you love to nap, but love reading something wonderful even more. Just, you know, read this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Christina Rhodes on May 26, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Well structured book!

Would recommend for anyone looking to understand some of the nuances of the Deaf Community and gives you a better understanding of the reluctance to "cure" deafness.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Steven Paglierani on May 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a personality theorist. Deafness is one of my interests. It sickens me to see professionals treat people who are deaf as broken. This leads many otherwise well-intentioned helpers to pressure these folks to imitate normal, a way of living that guarantees deaf people will live painful lives.

This same thing happens to people with Asperger's. No coincidence the personalities of people in both these groups have so many similarities.

What's the alternative? To see deafness as a minority personality. And to see the differences deaf people have from the rest of us as a richness to be learned from and a courage to be admired. In this way, this book is amazing. All of it, the wonderfully clear, scientific background and the heartfelt stories, reveal much of this richness and many moments of courage.

Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I Can Hear You Whisper is a thoroughly researched, beautifully written and very engaging account of the physiology of hearing, brain plasticity, deaf culture and a mother’s pursuit to both understand and help her son, Alex. Denworth provides a wonderful balance between the science and the complex history of deafness, on the one hand, and her own family’s struggle to grasp what it means to deal with a child’s severe hearing impairments, on the other. Denworth has assembled a fascinating and detailed account of the development of the Cochlear implant both from a scientific standpoint as well as the controversy it caused within the deaf community. Indeed, one of the many unexpected treasures in this book is a history of deaf culture and what it means to identify as deaf in a hearing world. Through superb storytelling and an excellent grasp of the underlying science, the book explores the many aspects of brain development and language. One of her many gifts as an author is to sift through enormous amounts of material (both written research and dozens of interviews) and assemble a clear, understandable and fascinating explanation of the science of language and how hearing affects so many aspects of how we learn. At its heart though this book is a wonderfully inspiring story of a mother’s love for her son and her quest to help him. And what’s a better read than a love story with a happy ending?
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