Turn the Lights On, I Can’t Hear You! Review of Ashlee Holland’s memoir of a life with hearing loss


Ashlee Holland’s Turn the Lights On, I Can’t Hear You begins with a unique title which grasps readers’ attention while articulating the need for sensitivity to others’ forms of communication. Written with compassion and mindfulness of the variety of backgrounds readers may come from, the book describes and educates others about various aspects of the deaf/hard of hearing experience.

Holland includes readable scientific and technical information concerning technologies assisting the hard of hearing, causes of hearing loss, and medical procedures which can restore some hearing to deaf people. While incredibly informative and well-researched, the piece could be strengthened with a more visible sense of internal thematic organization, whether chronological or topic-based.

She presents and explains various points of view on controversies within the Deaf and the educational communities, such as whether to surgically provide children with cochlear implants and whether to focus on sign language or lip reading. Ashlee Holland herself has learned to speak, sign, and lip read, and by choosing a cochlear implant has participated in both the deaf and hearing worlds, so she can speak from personal experience on a range of these topics. Turn the Lights On is a gentle, dispassionate source of information and a personal story, not a polemic for one cause or another.

The piece includes enough personal anecdotes and memories to resist becoming a textbook or reference manual.  We read of Ashlee’s relationship with several dogs throughout her life in the chapter on how pet dogs can assist the deaf, and we learn about her close friendships – but exclusion from games such as Telephone – in the section on helping children with hearing loss succeed. Later on we read of her dating life, marriage and motherhood, complete with pictures of her family. Complete with a pinch of humor, the photos include “Speak No Evil, Hear no Evil, See no Evil,” a family portrait with her husband’s eye and baby’s mouth covered.

Turn the Lights On, I Can’t Hear You provides a personal glimpse into a different set of life experiences in a friendly, engaging tone. Ashlee Holland has created a work informative for those who know a hard of hearing person and interesting and easy to read for just about everyone.

Ashlee Holland can be reached, and periodically posts updates, at the Turn the Lights Out, I Can’t Hear You Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=47067223183&ref=ts