©Bella Bathurst

©Bella Bathurst

Radio 4 Book of the Week, May 2017

In 1997, Bella Bathurst began to go deaf. Within a few months, she had lost half her hearing, and the rest was slipping away. She wasn’t just missing punchlines, she was missing most of the conversation – and all of the jokes. For the next twelve years, deafness shaped her life, until, in 2009, everything changed again. Sound draws on this extraordinary experience, exploring what it is like to lose your hearing and – as Bella eventually did – to get it back, and what that teaches you about listening and silence, music and noise. She investigates the science behind deafness, hearing loss among musicians, soldiers and factory workers, sign language, and what the deaf know about these subjects that the hearing don’t. If sight gives us the world, then hearing – or our ability to listen – gives us each other. But, as this smart, funny and profoundly honest examination reveals, our relationship with sound is both more personal and far more complex than we might expect. 

‘A hymn to the faculty of hearing by someone who had it, lost it and then found it again, written with passion and intelligence and full of matters auricular that I knew little about. it’s a brave and important work … terrifying, absorbing and ultimately uplifting.’∼ Rupert Christiansen, Literary Review, 1st May 2017

‘Less a memoir than an investigation of the importance of sound in human life … a moving and fascinating book, all about sound and what it means to be human. It has its share of sound and fury, and benefits from a journalist’s ability to listen.’  ∼Katy Guest, FT, 17th May 2017

Bathurst is a restless, curious writer, and she interweaves the story of her own experiences with imaginative research around hearing and sound … In every chapter she comes up with gems of information. Did you know that 60% of those inducted into the rock’n’roll hall of fame have suffered some kind of hearing loss? … After reading this book, I found myself listening in a richer and more interested way.’ ∼ Alice O’Keefe, Guardian, 4th May 2017

⭐️⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️  Mail on Sunday, Telegraph, Kobo.


It did not take me long to adjust to being deaf. oOr rather, it did not take me long to realise that I really didn’t want to be deaf, and that – faced with a choice over whether to go gracefully or to yank the building down around my fading ears – I was going to give it everything I’d got. Metaphorically speaking.

On the outside, I did my best to sound as if everything was fine. but inside I was hurling myself around the bars of my self-made cell from dawn until dusk, trying to claw my way towards the invisible adversary who I believed had somehow made me deaf in the first place. I knew one thing: I wasn’t going to be graceful about this. I wasn’t going to go quietly, and I had absolutely no intention of being even slightly well-adjusted about it. If this was a kind of bereavement and bereavement was supposed to have four stages, then forget all that nut-roast stuff about submission and acceptance; I planned to stick right here on fear and denial with maybe a bit of cosmic plea-bargaining thrown in for good measure. I could be sane and proportionate about this, or I could turn a manageable development into a full-blown existential calamity. If there was a hard way to do this and an easy way, then I was going to march straight towards the door marked bloody impossible.  Of course, at the time, none of this felt like a choice. Something had happened and I’d reacted to it. That reaction seemed inevitable – I didn’t choose to feel terrible about going deaf, I just did. It’s only now that I understand there were other ways of reacting. But when it actually happened, I couldn’t gure out a way to be graceful when all I felt was ashamed.