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'Life After Deaf' review: Writer details life without sounds

Noel Holston's #x201c;Life After Death.#x201d; (Skyhorse Press/Amazon/TNS)
Noel Holston’s “Life After Death.” (Skyhorse Press/Amazon/TNS)

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, and as Holston himself admits, he has never met a pun he didn’t like, so consider yourself forewarned — 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 the Star Tribune now living in Georgia — writes about the isolation he felt, unable to participate in conversations, reduced to communicating with co-workers 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!”

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