Learning to Hear

From The Fanlight Collection

Directed by Lori Kuffner

44 minutes / Color
Release: 2009
Copyright: 2003

Though it is still controversial, especially within the deaf community, over a relatively few years cochlear implant surgery has become widely accepted, not only for children and teens, but for adults as well. This moving documentary explores the lives of two deaf women who have learned to function in a hearing society, both before and after the life-changing operation that enables them to recover their hearing.

44-year-old Janice lost her hearing in childhood, and has spent most of her life compensating for the near complete loss of this critical sense — in part by isolating herself from relationships with others. Janice's story is intertwined with that of 36-year-old Melanie, a married mother of two, who has some hearing (30% in one ear,) though her entire family have had to develop coping strategies to deal with her disability. Neither woman signs or considers herself part of a wider deaf community.

Learning to Hear follows Melanie and Janice, along with their families and friends, as they make the decision to have the surgery and then experience the gradual "speech programming" process which enables them to learn to hear again. Told through the personal testimonies of the women and their families, family photos, and interviews with the surgeon, this video invites viewers into the world of two brave hearing-impaired women as they reconnect with the world of everyday sound and communication.

"Recommended. Describes two women, both of whom lost their hearing long after birth. Viewers…follow them through the surgery, and the miracle moments when their speech programming process eventually commences." —Educational Media Reviews Online

"There is a sense of the isolation and the difficulty involved in trying to operate in a hearing world. So many things that we take for granted such as talking on the phone, communicating with children/family, interacting socially, and getting/not getting a job are relived." —Science Books and Films

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By Lori Kuffner

Select Accolades

  • Official Selection, 2019 Northeastern Anthropological Association Conference (NEAA)