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I Can Hear You Whisper

An Intimate Journey Through the Science of Sound and Language

By Lydia Denworth
13-minute read
Audio available
I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey Through the Science of Sound and Language by Lydia Denworth

I Can Hear You Whisper (2014) is about human communication, and the phenomenon and culture of deafness. Hearing is a complex process that doesn’t function the same way for everyone, and those who are deaf or hard of hearing have developed alternative methods of communication, around which a special culture has grown. These blinks give an overview of that culture and show that it’s just as rich as any other.

  • Anyone interested in the science or culture of deafness
  • Sociology or medical students

Lydia Denworth is writer whose work has been in the New York Times, Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal. She served as an adjunct professor of journalism at Fordham University and Long Island University. I Can Hear You Whisper is her second best-selling book.

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I Can Hear You Whisper

An Intimate Journey Through the Science of Sound and Language

By Lydia Denworth
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey Through the Science of Sound and Language by Lydia Denworth
Synopsis

I Can Hear You Whisper (2014) is about human communication, and the phenomenon and culture of deafness. Hearing is a complex process that doesn’t function the same way for everyone, and those who are deaf or hard of hearing have developed alternative methods of communication, around which a special culture has grown. These blinks give an overview of that culture and show that it’s just as rich as any other.

Key idea 1 of 8

Hearing is a complex process that doesn’t function perfectly in everyone.

Most people take their ability to hear for granted. Hearing, like so many other physiological functions, is a highly complex process.

So how is sound created and how do our ears process it?

Noise is made when molecules in the air vibrate and create a sound wave. Our outer ear catches sound waves and works like a funnel, sending them into the ear canal. The ear canal then amplifies them and sends them onto the eardrum.

When a sound hits the eardrum, it vibrates and changes from acoustic energy into mechanical energy. The mechanical energy then moves through three tiny bones called the hammer, anvil and stirrup, and enters the inner ear.

Once in the inner ear, the sound enters the fluid-filled cochlea, where it changes into hydro-energy. Tiny hairs in the cochlea detect movements in the fluid and generate electrical impulses in the brain, causing you to “hear” the sound.

But this process doesn’t function properly for everyone: while most people can hear sounds within a range of 20 to 20,000 Hertz (Hz), other people’s range is much smaller or nonexistent.

Life is very different for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. If you can’t hear people speak, for instance, you have to rely on completely different methods of communication.

That’s why such a vibrant culture has developed around deafness. The deaf community has had to come up with alternative ways for a lot of things hearing people rely on their hearing for. Deafness shouldn’t necessarily be considered a lack of something: it’s an identity in its own right.

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