I enjoy reading inspiring stories about people with hearing loss, especially tales like the one in Ephphatha, a new book by Dr. Thomas Caulfield. The book shares the courageous journey of his son Christopher, born profoundly deaf, and his struggles to combat and overcome this disability through much of his young life. There were many ups and downs, but through hard work, cochlear implant (CI) technology, perseverance and tremendous familial support, Christopher matures into an intelligent, kind, and purposeful man. It is uplifting to go on this adventure with him.
Today, Christopher Caulfield is a tremendous advocate for the disability community, including people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Regular readers of this blog might remember him as one of the Cornell Tech students working on captioning glasses that I discuss in a prior post. This summer, Christopher will be joining Microsoft as a Program Manager within the Cloud and Artificial Intelligence group. Over time, he hopes to get involved in Microsoft’s accessibility initiatives for people with hearing loss.
Ephphatha is based on journal entries that the author, Christopher’s father, kept about Christopher’s life with hearing loss. It begins with the shock of the deafness diagnosis, followed by attempts at using hearing aids and the difficult decision to try a cochlear implant, which was still a relatively untested technology at that time. Despite an unfortunate complication with the surgery, the CI was a game changer for Christopher, allowing him to attend mainstream school, learn to speak well, and become the man he is today.
The book carries on through Christopher’s school years, chronicling the difficulties he faced finding friends that could understand and adapt to his communication challenges and the solace he found through his prowess on the basketball court.
The book title, Ephphatha, means to be opened, and it is a fitting one as each step of the journey required Christopher and his family to be open to new experiences, battles brought on by stigma and stereotype, and changing expectations. From his incredible success on the basketball court to his consistent honor roll performance, Christopher demonstrated the power of self-advocacy and the importance of family support to living a successful life despite the challenges of hearing loss / deafness.
My favorite quote from the book is the answer that teenage Christopher gives when he is asked to name one of his biggest accomplishments. He replied, “I want to look back and say that through all of my hard work, I was able to talk pretty well and be like everybody else,” showing that despite the challenges he needed to overcome, Christopher simply wanted what all teenagers want — acceptance and love. In the end, he achieves both.
Christopher was recently selected to speak at his graduation from Cornell Tech. Click here to watch the captioned video of his talk, where he discusses the difficulties he faced growing up deaf and encourages others to use their own personal stories of challenge to inspire others. It is worth a listen.
Other Wonderful Books About Hearing Loss
If you enjoy reading books about hearing loss, here are three others I have reviewed in the last few years. Please share your favorites in the comments.
Living Better With Hearing Loss by Katherine Bouton
The Way I Hear It by Gael Hannan
Readers, do you have a hearing loss book that you recommend?
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