Owen (Where the Water Goes), a New Yorker staff writer, wrestles with the complexities of the human ear in this informative extended essay on aural perception. Owen, who suffers from tinnitus, a constant ringing in the ears, describes in detail his experience and also touches on other conditions, such as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, a balance problem that occurs when the wrong hair cells in the ear are stimulated, and otosclerosis, which occurs when bones in the middle ear fuse. As part of his research, he is fitted for a pair of hearing aids and visits Starkey Hearing Technologies in Eden Prairie, Minn., to witness the device in production. Owen also acquaints himself with advances such as cochlear implants, which directly stimulate fibers in the auditory nerves and thus create new stimuli for the brain to process as sound. Readers may object that topics such as the stigma of deafness and the deaf community don’t receive much attention. Otherwise, in exploring a bodily mechanism “so remarkably small and complex and hard to observe that scientists still don’t completely understand how all of its components work,” Owen delivers an illuminating account of human hearing. Agent: David McCormick, McCormick & Williams. (Oct.)
[Volume Control] is the best primer I’ve ever read on sound and hearing, and full of advice for people of any age to consider. . . . [Owen] gives us a wonderful insight into the world of the hard of hearing and deaf.” —Wall Street Journal
“Informative and entertaining. . . . In clear, appealing prose, Owen explains how loud sounds—machinery, live music, etc.—can leave people no longer noticing smoke alarms, sirens, gunshots, and backup signals. . . he makes earwax interesting. . . . The book brims with useful advice.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Owen's writing and thinking about the nature of ears, sounds, and communication are lively. . . . Volume Control will remain relevant for decades to come.” —Pacific Standard
“Timely and informative. . . . This well-researched and accessible introduction to the complicated subject of hearing loss is highly recommended for all science readers, not just those experiencing hearing impairments.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“Accessible and surprisingly entertaining. . . this work addresses an important issue for the growing pool of aging baby boomers.” —Booklist
“Owen, a New Yorker staff writer, wrestles with the complexities of the human ear in this informative…illuminating account of human hearing.” —Publishers Weekly
“In Volume Control David Owen brings his superb skills as a reporter and storyteller to the increasingly urgent issue of hearing loss. The baby-boomers are aging—and so are their ears. Fortunately, and probably because of this demographic trend, both science and commerce are at last paying attention to this invisible but epidemic problem. Owen is an erudite and entertaining guide not only to the new technologies that make hearing aids better and more affordable, but to the myriad byways and curiosities he encounters in his research.” —Katherine Bouton, author of Smart Hearing and Shouting Won't Help
“David Owen aptly addresses the medical, emotional, and social aspects of hearing loss, along with some surprising revelations about technology and hearing aids. He presents the latest information in a way that makes you want to keep reading.” —Barbara Kelley, executive director, Hearing Loss Association of America
“As this book makes clear, most of us will encounter hearing loss at some point in our lives;, we all stand to gain from reading Volume Control for practical reasons alone. But David Owen brims with a curiosity that's beautifully matched by his journalistic alacrity. How many times I beamed with sheer delight simply to follow the author down one fascinating path after another.” —Leah Hager Cohen, author of Strangers and Cousins
“A wide-ranging exploration of our vital sense of hearing, and the consequences when it wanes. Owen makes accessible not only the fascinating biology of hearing, but the complexities of remedying its loss.” —Jerome Groopman, Dina and Raphael Recanati Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and author of The Anatomy of Hope
New Yorker staff writer Owen (Where the Water Goes: Life and Death Along the Colorado River, 2017, etc.) makes sense of hearing and its loss.
An estimated 37 million Americans have lost some hearing, writes the author of this unusually informative and entertaining account. Fortunately, as one scientist told him, "there is no better time in all of human history to be a person with hearing loss." In the 1700s, the hard of hearing used ear trumpets. Now there are many remedies for the two-thirds of Americans 70 or older who have lost some hearing. Hearing aids are improving, and inexpensive high-tech substitutes—including over-the-counter headphones—are available. Physicians may soon be able to reverse losses once considered hopeless. Himself a mid-60-ish tinnitus sufferer, Owen discusses his talks with numerous experts and patients and describes revealing visits to Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Connecticut's American School for the Deaf, Bose Corporation, Starkey Hearing Technologies, and other research centers and companies. His highly anecdotal narrative explores every aspect of hearing, including its "Rube Goldberg machine" complexity, why most people wait more than 10 years to do anything about hearing problems, and the terrible effects of the noise of battle—one-fifth of all hearing aids sold in the U.S. are bought by the Department of Veterans Affairs. In clear, appealing prose, Owen explains how loud sounds—machinery, live music, etc.—can leave people no longer noticing smoke alarms, sirens, gunshots, and backup signals. Hearing loss is so common that the author discovers many friends and colleagues have the problem. Through their stories, he makes earwax interesting, explores sudden and single-sided deafness, and identifies the restaurants (always a challenge for the hearing-impaired) that are quietest (Chinese, Indian, and Japanese) and loudest (Mexican) in New York City. The book brims with useful advice: "Deafness is expensive. Earplugs aren't."
A bright, upbeat, sometimes funny dive into a serious subject that will spur many readers to get their ears tested.
According to New Yorker staff writer Owen (Where the Water Goes), we live in a noisy world of lawn mowers, power tools, leaf blowers, loud music, and recreational shooting. In this timely and informative account, the author explores different types of hearing loss, ways to protect our hearing, the newest hearing aid products, and changes in the hearing aid industry. In addition to his own tinnitus—ringing in the ears—Owen describes hearing loss experiences of friends, family members, and colleagues. He also examines why cochlear implants are controversial, explores education programs at the American School for the Deaf, and looks at cutting-edge research such as the use of gene therapy to correct certain types of hearing loss. Owen enumerates the things that inconvenience people about conventional hearing aids (besides their high price), and rounds out the topic by evaluating high-tech substitutes through smartphone apps. VERDICT This well-researched and accessible introduction to the complicated subject of hearing loss is highly recommended for all science readers, not just those experiencing hearing impairments.—Cynthia Lee Knight, Hunterdon Cty. Historical Soc., Flemington, NJ