Sweet Nothing in My Ear

(Synopsis from Hallmark’s website…)

Suppose your deaf child could have an operation (not without risk) that might
allow him or her to hear again.

Dan Miller (Jeff Daniels) and his wife Laura (Marlee Matlin) only want what’s best for heir happy and healthy eight-year-old son Adam (Noah Valencia), who’s been deaf since age four. Laura opposes the surgery– an implant. Being deaf, she doesn’t consider it a disability and believes an operation, regardless of the outcome, would make Adam feel that something was wrong with him. However, Dan, who can hear, misses talking and listening to his son. For him, an operation is worth the risk, believing Adam’s life would be easier and more complete if he could hear. This is a devoted family facing a moment of truth. Together or apart, Dan and Laura must make a life-altering decision on behalf of their son. You won’t want to miss this powerful presentation from the Hallmark Hall of Fame on Sunday, April 20, 2008 on CBS.

The cochlear implant issue is a very controversial one in the Deaf community. The popular opinion is that cochlear implants are going to kill Deaf culture. On the other side, many hearing parents of deaf children choose the cochlear implant for their child and bring them up hearing rather than teaching them ASL and exposing them to Deaf culture. The movie does a great job with making each side of the argument balanced and I found myself really feeling for both Dan and Laura.

I enjoyed this movie much more than I thought I would. My pre-conceived notion was that the movie would be highly biased towards the Deaf mom. I was glad that they didn’t make the hearing father the Devil-Man. The scene when Dan and Laura end up wrestling on the lawn then crying together was so powerful, it brought tears to my eyes.

I loved that Dan and Laura’s therapist was HoH. HoH people often feel that they belong neither to the hearing world nor the Deaf world, particularly late deafened adults. Oftentimes they can’t function 100% in the hearing world, and they aren’t accepted 100% into the Deaf world because they’re not full Deaf, especially if they haven’t used ASL all their lives. For my own experience, it has been much harder to find employment, and when I applied for SSI/SSDI I was denied because I wasn’t “disabled” enough to qualify for any assistance.

I was surprised at the ending of the movie. First, I was happily surprised that Dan returned home to Laura and Adam. Then second, unhappily surprised and unsatisfied that it wasn’t revealed whether they chose for Adam to get the cochlear implant or not.

The movie asks the obvious question “What would you do?” A few years ago, I probably would’ve said my husband and I would choose to give our child a CI. I have two cousins that have the same condition I do, and they have CIs that they got in their 40s. However, due to my recent exposure to Deaf culture and my own experience with degenerative hearing loss, I would now lean toward leaving that up to my child. I would learn ASL and send my Deaf child to a Deaf school. Whether or not my child chose to get a CI, I would support their decision 100% either way. For myself, at this time I am not interested in getting a CI because the surgery destroys any residual hearing; I still do what I can with the remaining 40ish% that I do have. I think both my boys have dodged a heriditary bullet– both have had positive hearing tests after the age I had my first negative hearing test. It’s something to keep an eye on though just in case they do have the same disease, just setting in at a later time in their lives.

Overall, Dory gives this movie 4.5 out of 5 stars and will probably buy it when Hallmark puts it on DVD. It would also be an excellent resource for any beginning ASL class.

If you are interested in learning more about Deaf culture, check out Sound and Fury (which my library had a copy of), Children of a Lesser God, and the PBS special Through Deaf Eyes.

1 thought on “Sweet Nothing in My Ear

  1. It is an interesting issue. One thing to remember is that CI’s are not magic. They do fail to work as intended on a fair number of people.

    Here’s the real problem as I see it though. CI’s usually come with a requirement of Audio Visual Therapy. Well AVT *explicitly prohibits teaching signing to the child*.

    So, um, if you have a CI put into your child, and she or he is one of those for whom it does not work, congratulations. You have now whipped past the timeframe in which it’s critical for kids to learn how to communicate (between birth and about three to four years of age). That kind of deprivation leads to all kinds of communication and cognitive issues.

    So I say, by all means get the CI if you like. But have your child learn ASL *too*. Then he doesn’t have to risk playing catchup for the rest of his life 🙁

    Obviously, just one POV. There are many, many sides to this, like you pointed out. I will have to see this movie at some point.

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