September 07 at 08:00
I’ve never read a deaf person’s autobiography before, but when No More Laughing At The Deaf Boy by Geoffrey Ball landed on my doormat, I picked it up and read it from cover to cover.
The opening few chapters transport you back to his Silicon Valley childhood in America, and I honestly felt like I was watching an episode of The Wonder Years with Fred Savage narrating.
The book makes for a fascinating read – with some hilarious stories related to both Ball’s deafness and his amazing career in research and development in the world of hearing aid technology. And it’s these laugh-out-loud sections – such as his account on using his deafness to get out of paying $1,800 for a new plane ticket, or a minor mishap with a health and safety person and a shower in the lab – that balance out the dry, science-based bits that were sometimes beyond my technological grasp and also my interest. Indeed, I don’t feel that Ball is a natural writer – he’s a scientist, inventor and an innovator with a great story to tell.
In the final section, Ball says something that I consider to be true about me, too. He says he feels he had to work harder to get Bs when others were effortlessly getting As, but that working harder to get the basics made it possible for him to get to the next level. Like Ball, being deaf has always been an extraordinary motivation to be the best I can be.
However, after reading Ball’s story, I believe this is a man who would have been great even if he hadn’t have been deaf. He was working from the age of 11, inventing things, setting up skateboard businesses and printing T-shirts – failing was not on his agenda. He’s travelled the world and as well as changing his own life, he’s changed the lives of many others with his Vibrant Soundbridge, a middle ear implant.
If you can wade through the less captivating parts of his story, you will find amazing people, discoveries, snippets of history and details about incredible technological advances. It’s worth it to discover how Ball met his wife, how he moved on from potential business disasters and how he came to be residing in Austria today.
As a writer, I’ve always been told to write about what I know – my deafness – and for Ball, he has applied this to his life’s work and made a career from what he knew – his deafness. And regardless of how I feel about any sort of implanted hearing device or aid – I don’t think I’d ever have one – I finished this book with nothing but admiration for Geoffrey Ball and his work.