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What It’s Like for a Deaf Man to Hear Music for the First Time

September 3, 2012

By Rebecca J. Rosen | The Atlantic

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Austin Chapman was born profoundly deaf. Hearing aids helped some, but music — its full range of pitches and tones — remained undecipherable. As Chapman explains, “I’ve never understood it. My whole life I’ve seen hearing people make a fool of themselves singing their favorite song or gyrating on the dance floor. I’ve also seen hearing people moved to tears by a single song. That was the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around.”

But earlier this month, that changed when Chapman got new hearing aids (Phonak’s Naída S Premium). Suddenly:

The first thing I heard was my shoe scraping across the carpet; it startled me. I have never heard that before and out of ignorance, I assumed it was too quiet for anyone to hear.

I sat in the doctor’s office frozen as a cacophony of sounds attacked me. The whir of the computer, the hum of the AC, the clacking of the keyboard, and when my best friend walked in I couldn’t believe that he had a slight rasp to his voice. He joked that it was time to cut back on the cigarettes.

That night, a group of close friends jump-started my musical education by playing Mozart, Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Sigur Ros, Radiohead, Elvis, and several other popular legends of music.

Being able to hear the music for the first time ever was unreal.

When Mozart’s Lacrimosa came on, I was blown away by the beauty of it. At one point of the song, it sounded like angels singing and I suddenly realized that this was the first time I was able to appreciate music. Tears rolled down my face and I tried to hide it. But when I looked over I saw that there wasn’t a dry eye in the car.

Below is the music video of Mozart’s Lacrimosa

Chapman writes, “I did the only sensible thing and went on a binge of music.” From that binge, he composed his top-five list:

1. Mozart’s Lacrimsoa… I know it’s a depressing song but to me it represents the first time I could appreciate and experience music.

2. The soundtrack to Eleven Eleven… I can see how this comes off as narcissistic, it being my own film and all but it’s such a personal work that when I listened to it for the first time I broke down. I felt like I was truly seeing the film for the first time ever. I’m grateful that Cazz was able to capture the tone perfectly. We discussed the film and specific scenes with essay-sized reasoning/deliberations on what should be conveyed. The critical response to the film surprised me and I still didn’t quite get it until seeing the visual images coupled with the soundtrack.

3. Sig Ros’s Staralfur… The first song I had to listen to again, over and over.

4. IL Postino-Luis Bacalov

5. Minnesota’s A Bad Place

Read the whole story at http://mashable.com/2012/08/30/deaf-man-hears-music/

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