Synopses & Reviews
An investigation into the science of hearing, child language acquisition, neuroplasticity, brain development, and Deaf culture spurred by Lydia Denworth's discovery that her son couldn't hear her lullabies and the family's life-altering decision to give him a cochlear implant.
Lydia Denworth's third son, Alex, was almost two when he was diagnosed with profound and progressive hearing loss. As both a science writer and the mother of young children, Denworth was steeped in messages about the importance of enrichment to the developing brain. She became determined to do whatever it took to allow Alex to hear and acquire spoken language, a quest that ultimately led to a controversial piece of emergent superhero technology”: the cochlear implant.
In this engrossing journey to the frontiers of science, readers will learn why sound is so important to the developing brain, what new possibilities come from the latest research, and what exactly is going on when you focus your hearing at a cocktail party. Denworth goes beyond her personal experience with her son, interviewing the worlds leading experts on child language development and hearing technology, leaders in the deaf community, and neuroscientists.
I Can Hear You Whisper weaves together Alex's story with the tales of two scientific revolutions: the centuries-long quest to develop the cochlear implant and sciences changing understanding of the brains remarkable plasticityall told against the sometimes-incendiary backdrop of identity politics and medical ethics.
"In this moving and informative book, former Newsweek reporter Denworth recounts her emotional and intellectual quest to help her deaf infant son hear. Throughout, she recreates the emotional highs and lows of the boy's journey. Among the many luminous moments is a moving description of Denworth's onset of sadness before her son's cochlear implant surgery: 'In the predawn darkness of a December morning,' she writes, 'I watched Alex sleeping in his crib for a moment and gently ran my fingers along the side of his sweet head just above his ear. In a few hours, that spot would be forever changed by a piece of hardware.' Denworth balances such scenes with well-researched glimpses into the labs of researchers and doctors trying to understand the mechanics of the rich human aural experience. Of particular interest are the passages in which she explores brain plasticity, a potential explanation for why our still-primitive cochlear implants work at all: humans' pliable brains adjust to, and improve on, the machines. 'I began to understand that the brain was in there, that there was a miracle in play here,' she quotes one cochlear implant researcher. This is a book that parents, particularly of deaf children, may find indispensable." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Praise for I Can Hear You Whisper
"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
"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 Denworths beautiful personal account and thorough investigation connect the dots between her sons 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 Denworths 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
When her toddler son, Alex, was identified with significant hearing loss, Lydia Denworth worried about how well his brain and language skills would develop outside the world of sound. An acclaimed science journalist as well as a mother, Denworth began interviewing experts on language development, inventors of groundbreaking technology, leaders in the Deaf community, and neuroscientists at the frontiers of brain plasticity research.
One mother's engrossing journey to the frontiers of science, I Can Hear You Whisper will be embraced by parents of children who want to better understand the exquisite relationship between sound, language, and learning.
A skilled science translator, Denworth makes decibels, teslas and brain plasticity understandable to all.” Washington Post
Lydia Denworth's third son, Alex, was nearly two when he was identified with significant hearing loss that was likely to get worse. Denworth 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? How would he communicate? Would he learn to read and write? An acclaimed science journalist as well as a mother, Denworth made it her mission to find out, interviewing experts on language development, inventors of groundbreaking technology, Deaf leaders, and neuroscientists at the frontiers of brain plasticity research. I Can Hear You Whisper chronicles Denworth's search for answersand her new understanding of Deaf culture and the exquisite relationship between sound, language, and learning.
About the Author
LYDIA DENWORTH is a former Newsweek reporter, London bureau chief at People, and professor of journalism at Fordham. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Child, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, and other publications. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.