“I didn’t realize how beautiful a child actually sounds.”
It’s an incredible line from an interview with Joanne Milne. The 40-year-old British woman, deaf since birth, had just received a cochlear implant.
The only thing more moving than the interview was the video showing her break down in tears as a nurse calls out the days of the week and she hears for the first time.
The video went viral. It also led to a lot of musing on Twitter about what music people would introduce to someone who had never heard a harmony before. Offers included Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue,” Monteverdi’s “Beatus Vir,” and The Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun.”
Writer Jojo Moyes then spoiled the fun by linking to a video on YouTube that shows what people actually hear when they begin using a cochlear implant:
It’s not pretty.
The brain does later adjust to the sounds coming in through the implant, but the video does suggest that it might be a good idea to hold off on that must-listen music list, at least until the formerly deaf person adjusts to their new ability.
Joanna Milne isn’t the only person to be filmed in an emotional, inspiring video as she hears her first sounds. YouTube actually returns more than half a million videos in return for a search for “hearing for the first time” and while those won’t all mark the moment deafness ended, they do include children hearing their mothers for the first time and mothers hearing their children for the first time.
It’s always uplifting and moving, and it makes us recall just how much we take for granted.
We’ve never had it so good
As musicians, we listen to music all the time. We have stacks of DVDs that we might even still play. We have iPods and phones filled with playlists, and we have subscriptions to streaming services that can give us just about any artist we want at any time we want to hear them.
At no time in history has anyone ever had so much access to so much music.
And if we want to hear live music, we no longer need to own a chamber orchestra, go to church or hope to receive an invitation to a ball. Live concerts take place all the time and as musicians, we’re capable of sitting at our pianos or pulling out our violins and creating music ourselves.
It’s a remarkable freedom that like hearing itself, we take for granted.
Each day since that video was posted, Joanne Milne has been adjusting to the sounds her implant has been delivering to her. Voices are becoming clearer. Sounds are becoming more familiar. Words are starting to have a form other than written. And at the same time, she’ll be getting used to hearing music and coming to understand that it’s not only a child’s voice that is beautiful but music as well.
It’s something we can’t realize, but we can remember.