Book Review
What Did You Say?
By Monique Hammond
An unexpected journey into the world of hearing loss.
Minneapolis 2012, Two Harbors Press

Review by Vicki Martin

Hammond’s title question illustrates the dual disadvantages that a person with hearing loss encounters in looking for answers and solutions to the problem of hearing loss. Not only is there no central repository of information to whom one can turn for a survey of current knowledge, but due to the nature of the disability, even the bits and pieces one is offered often go unheard, or are misheard.

Monique’s struggle to get a clear picture of the import and probable implications of her hearing loss, which she experienced suddenly as an adult, is what drove her to write What Did You Say?, the book she wishes she’d had on the day that her hearing changed forever. “Access to some organized, easy-to-understand information related to ear and hearing issues would have been enormously helpful to me,” writes Hammond.

Since Hammond experienced a wide variety of symptoms, from vertigo and balance problems to tinnitus, hyperacusis and deafness, she is able to give us the grand tour. Her professional experience as a pharmacist doesn’t hurt either.

The book is well-researched and thorough. Though it makes no claim to be comprehensive, it provides a good layout of the terrain of the world of hearing loss. A person may be able to get his bearings here, and map out a journey through the minefields of specialists, tests, medicine, and technology that can help him at least to figure out what questions to ask.

What Did You Say? addresses audiogram measurements and meaning, causes of hearing loss, ototoxic substances, equilibrium, tinnitus, hearing aids, assistive listening devices, surgical implants, and emotional impact. Appendices provide checklists for preparing for appointments and hearing tests, selecting a hearing aid vendor, and buying hearing aids. A list of helpful websites is supplied, and there is a glossary and index to help you find your way back to the topics you want to revisit.

A few minor points could bear clarification:

Analog hearing aids can be just as customized as digital hearing aids, though this point is perhaps lost in her discussion of the two.

Her comments on looping alternatives mention but do not define “standard, FM [and] infra-red” setups. It may not be clear to the reader that “standard” means a wired room or area loop.

And whereas she says that “only 30 to 40 percent of English language sounds can be correctly identified” by speechreading, it might be more accurate to state that 30 to 40 percent of sounds are visible. There is a subtle difference, since not every visible sound is necessarily identifiable. But her point is, speechreading is hard, and she’s on target with that.

Though they could be clearer, these items are not likely to lead astray the person who is looking for good, helpful information about hearing loss and how to deal with it.

Just as a hearing aid does not improve the hearing of a person who will not wear it, a book about hearing loss is of little use if it is not read. What Did You Say? contains a lot of real information, but it is far from being a collection of dry facts. I for one enjoyed the quick sprint through “the quirky world of logarithms,” and appreciated her acknowledgement of the complexity of something as apparently simple as choosing ear plugs.

Most of all, this book is readable because it is the story of a real person. Hammond’s own story is woven through all of the details that she has brought together for us, and this keeps it lively.

A book offering a broad view of the landscape of hearing loss is long overdue. What Did You Say? fills a genuine need, and more – it’s also a good read.

Vicki Martin is a member and past president of HLAA-TC (Twin Cities chapter), and co-editor of the HLAA-TC Newsletter.

MONIQUE HAMMOND, RPh, was born and raised in Luxembourg. She graduated with a BS Pharmacy from the University of Minnesota with high distinction. She has worked in health care in Europe, the United States, and Australia. As a hospital pharmacist, her major priorities have always been patient safety and advocacy, as well as health education and disease prevention. She live in Minneapolis, Minn. Hammond was appointed by the governor to the MCDHH, The Commission Serving Deaf, Deafblind and Hard-of-Hearing Minnesotans, where she served as vice-chair. She has also served as president of the Hearing Loss Association of America, local chapter.