Maybe it’s just me, but it seems of late there’s been a distinct uptick in hearing loss as a hot topic across our cultural landscapes—pop and otherwise. While I don’t deign to offer myself up as an expert on the matter, I do know what I’ve seen recently, which includes (in no particular order):

  • a dynamic four-page advertising insert I found in the June 18 Los Angeles Times–and again on July 9–introducing readers to Starkey’s state-of-the-art Zon hearing aid;
  • the push to build support to bring about the eventual passage of the Hearing Aid Tax Credit legislation;
  • the controversial news about a deaf couple in the United Kingdom who are fighting for the right to have a deaf baby via in vitro fertilization against a proposed ban that would use screening to force them to reject a deaf embryo over a hearing embryo;
  • the HBO premiere of the Sundance Film Festival award-winning documentary Hear and Now, which chronicles an elderly couple—both deaf since birth—acquiring and dealing with cochlear implants that expose them to sound for the first time in their lives.

I have to confess that I was disappointed at the end of the film when Paul and Sally Taylor decide to have the implants removed and return to the silent worlds from which they came. Certainly, I understood their ultimate decision, and I applaud them for being willing to make the attempt so late in life, but for something as technologically marvelous as the cochlear implant to be so summarily rejected and before such a large audience, it left me concerned and considering what negative impact it might have. A year ago, I might have had a different reaction, but now that I’m involved in this industry, I’m guilty of wanting the so-called happy ending.

Which brings up to, of all things: MTV and its upcoming documentary series True Life. Having not purposefully tuned in to MTV since the network actually played music videos (which I think was way back when the Sony Walkman was the latest in audio technology), I just might have to set the TiVo to record this first episode (scheduled to air July 20), in which the cameras follow around a 16-year-old named Chris who has been deaf since birth and undergoes cochlear implant surgery.

In his first moments with the device, he walks through a parking lot experiencing the sounds he’s never heard before—mundane to us, but magic to him. “I can hear the wind,” he says. “And I can hear cars going by, and people walking and talking everywhere. I can hear. It’s cool.”

It’s not so much a happy ending as a happy beginning. Even better.

Will Campbell
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