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HBO's Hear & Now: The Joy of Communication


HBO premiered the documentary film Hear and Now last night. It is a love story of a fascinating, quirky, intelligent, loving couple who happen to be deaf and the parents of three hearing children. One of the children, award winning filmmaker Irene Taylor Brodsky decided to document her parents journey through cochlear implant surgery.

Paul and Sally Taylor have been deaf all their lives - they are well adapted, happy people - successful, good parents. They are about to retire. Still, what are they missing out on, not being able to hear? Paul Taylor is one of the inventors of the TTY - the telecommunications system that revolutionized communications for the hearing impaired. Brodsky captures the vulnerability of the deaf - of anyone with disabilities. She captures the rejection the Taylors felt as teens trying to fit in to an uncaring world. She captures the youthful hope the Taylors feel at 65, wanting to try new things - have a conversation, go to a concert, listen to music. One thing they remind us is that communication is a joy we take for granted.

Their surgeon proclaims that cochlear implants are the #1 medical advance of the 21st century - because hearing is the only sense that can be restored. The filmmaker/daughter makes it obvious that just the thought of being able to hear for the first time is emotionally overwhelming for the 65 year old Sally, but the surgeon seems to have as much difficulty processing her emotional reactions as she seems to have processing sound.

The surgery is successful - both Paul and Sally can hear sounds. Language acquisition and understanding the spoken word is a different matter. I admit to being an emotional person but I was crying like a baby watching this deeply personal story. The technology is still new and maybe counseling and language classes are imperative adjunctive therapies to help recipients adapt to the world of sound.

Hear and Now airs frequently on HBO in English and in Spanish through June 22. Be sure to watch it exclusively on HBO.
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