Best of America

A Deaf Person’s Favorite Music

As my co-workers can attest, I spend a good part of most work days with ear buds firmly in place (nothing personal, guys). Depending on my mood and goals for the day, the tunes I stream can range from my favorite radio station, Seattle-based KEXP, to a new album on repeat (currently Bobby Womack). I can’t imagine my life or work without music.

So when I saw this headline on The Atlantic.com—“What It’s Like For a Deaf Person To Hear Music For The First Time”—I knew I had to check it out. The story’s about filmmaker Austin Chapman, 23, who was born deaf and couldn’t hear much of anything, including music. As he wrote recently on his blog:

“I’ve never understood it. My whole life I’ve seen hearing people make a fool of themselves singing their favorite song or gyrating on the dance floor. I’ve also seen hearing people moved to tears by a single song. That was the hardest thing for me
to wrap my head around.”

As Rebecca J. Rosen reports, Chapman’s life changed last month when he got new hearing aids. That day, his friends introduced him to a few musical icons: the Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Sigur Ros, Radiohead, Elvis. One piece that particularly affected him was Mozart’s Lacrimosa. “I could hear pitches I’ve never experienced before,” says Chapman. Since that day, he’s been gorging on music, even asking for suggestions on the social news site Reddit (he’s gotten more than 14,000 responses). Check out his top 5 list here.

Remarkably, despite being introduced to a new realm of sound, Chapman still prefers a world without it. “Silence is still my favorite sound,” he writes. “When I turn my [hearing] aids off my thoughts become more clear and it’s absolutely peaceful.”

Photo credit: Austin Chapman

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