Life After Deaf

By Noel Holston

Skyhorse Press. 210 pp. $24.99

Reviewed by Laurie Hertzel

At first they thought the problem might be blocked sinuses, but when Noel Holston’s hearing evaporated overnight and did not return, he and his wife, Marty, headed to the doctor. The news was sobering: The microscopic hairs in his inner ear that catch sound had collapsed, and with them Holston’s hearing. A battery of tests ruled out a multitude of causes and, in the end, the cause was not that important. “There were only so many options available” for treatment, his doctor said.

Life After Deaf, Holston’s memoir of losing his hearing at age 62, is a graceful and compelling read. As the title hints, Holston has never met a pun he didn’t like, so consider yourself warned — there are plenty. (He originally planned to call the book Deaf Be Not Proud, and one chapter is titled “Ear We Go Again.”)

But puns aside, the story moves quickly, with anger, frustration, and humor, as Holston navigates this new, silent world that, he said, “was making me invisible.” Holston — a former TV critic for Newsday and the Star Tribune in Minneapolis — writes about the isolation he felt, unable to participate in conversations, reduced to communicating with coworkers through texting or written notes even when in the same room. And living without his beloved music — he is a songwriter, and his wife a singer — was excruciating.

There are unexpected inconveniences — one day he accidentally left his car running, unable to hear the engine or the warning beeps that sounded when he locked the door and walked away. And one night he locked his wife out of their hotel room, unable to hear her knocks.

The technical and medical details, the frustrating fights with the insurance company, the failed first operation, the better second one — all are folded seamlessly into the narrative. Cherish your ears, Holston tells the reader. Cherish your senses. “I wanted sound, musical sound, back in my life,” he writes. “A chorus, a chorus, my kingdom for a chorus!”

From the Star Tribune (Minneapolis).