The Sideshow

Deaf man with new hearing aid hears music for the first time, asks, ‘What I should listen to next?’

(artofthestory.com)

Austin Chapman says he was "born profoundly deaf" and has "never understood" music--or the people moved by it.

"My whole life I've seen hearing people make a fool of themselves singing their favorite song or gyrating on the dance floor," Chapman, a 23-year-old filmmaker, wrote in a post on his studio's blog. "I've also seen hearing people moved to tears by a single song."

"[It] was the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around," he continued. "All music sounded like trash through my hearing aids."

But that changed earlier this week, Chapman says, when he tried a new pair of hearing aids for the first time in years:

I sat in the doctor's office frozen as a cacophony of sounds attacked me. The whir of the computer, the hum of the AC, the clacking of the keyboard, and when my best friend walked in I couldn't believe that he had a slight rasp to his voice. He joked that it was time to cut back on the cigarettes.

That night, a group of Chapman's close friends "jump-started" his musical education" with a crash-course: Mozart, the Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Sigur Ros, Elvis and Radiohead.

When Mozart's "Lacrimosa" came on, I was blown away by the beauty of it. At one point of the song, it sounded like angels singing and I suddenly realized that this was the first time I was able to appreciate music. Tears rolled down my face and I tried to hide it. But when I looked over I saw that there wasn't a dry eye in the car.

I finally understood the power of music.

View photo

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The cover of Radiohead's "OK Computer" (Radiohead)

Chapman, a recent Pepperdine graduate, did the "only sensible thing"--he went on an aural binge.

"I honestly never thought I would really be able to hear my own soundtracks because I have accepted my deafness, I have always been and still am grateful for all I've been blessed with so it was never a big deal to me," he wrote. "Now ... I'm overwhelmed and beyond grateful."

Chapman posted his story on Reddit, asking for suggestions of what songs he should listen to next. He's received more than 14,000 responses recommending AC/DC to Vampire Weekend and everything in between.

The most popular comment, he noted, isn't a song but rather a suggestion to listen to the music from the beginnings of its origins. It reads:

This is like introducing an Alien to the music of Earth. I wouldn't know where to start. Once you're through your kick on Classical, I might start with music from the 50's and progress through each decade. You can really see the growth of modern music like that.

"I think it's a wonderful idea," Chapman replied. "I'm going to start with the earliest written form of music ... Guillaume de Machaut's 'Agnus Dei,'" a song composed sometime between 1313 and 1365.

But if you were thinking you might turn Chapman into a Chopin--or Metallica--fan, think again.

"Silence is still my favorite sound," he wrote.

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