95 Decibels Review: A Very Accurate Presentation of a Cochlear Implant Journey

January 4th, 2014 by | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

A couple years ago, a mom of a child with a cochlear implant set out a campaign on Kickstarter to raise money to produce a film about a family learning about their child’s deafness and going through the process of getting a cochlear implant and teaching their child to hear and speak.  Lisa Reznik reached her funding goal and completed the film, 95 Decibels, last year.  The film was first premiered in New Jersey this past September and then at a conference hosted by American Cochlear Implant Alliance in October.  The DVDs will finally be sent out to those who pre-ordered it this month.  I was able to get a copy recently so that I can share my thoughts.


Erica and Dylan speak with Sophia’s surgeon who was played by Goran Visnjic in 95 Decibals. PHOTO CREDIT: Lisa Myers

95 Decibels is a short film based on Lisa’s journey in learning about her daughter’s deafness, getting her a cochlear implant, and teaching her to hear and speak.  As I was watching the film, I kept saying, “This is exactly what my parents faced too!”  I am sure that many viewers who are parents of children with cochlear implants will find that they can relate to so many scenes.  When the mother, Erica, was calling her daughter’s name, Sophia, and she was not responding, this scene resembled the moment when my parents noticed that I was not startling to loud noises.   Erica disputing with the pediatrician about her concerns with her daughter’s hearing mirrored my mom’s experience in dealing with my pediatrician.  When my mom expressed her concerns, the pediatrician said, “You’re just an overly anxious new mother who doesn’t know how babies react to sounds.”

The film continued to show realistically the challenges that both Erica and Dylan, Sophia’s father, faced in dealing with their child’s deafness.  Choosing to get a cochlear implant for a child is not always a simple decision for many parents, and the film does really show how hard it was for Erica to decide.  Seeing a child go through surgery is never easy for any parents.  Erica did certainly exhibit fears of seeing her daughter go through a surgery that is so minimally invasive by initially saying “No” to a cochlear implant.  Erica eventually changes her mind when she learns more about the technology.  Erica visited a family who has a child with a cochlear implant and asked questions.  Like many families who have faced battles with the medical insurance company to cover cochlear implants, Sophia’s parents were denied to get a cochlear implant for their daughter, but they appealed and eventually won.  Because children can’t just magically start comprehending speech as soon as their cochlear implants are activated, they need to go through rehabilitation such as Auditory-Verbal therapy.  The film accurately portrayed Erica teaching Sophia to hear and speak through the Auditory-Verbal approach by playing toys with her while talking to her.  Watching the therapy scene reminded me of the years when I did therapy with my mom.

Lisa has done a phenomenal job in presenting a very accurate portrayal of many parents’ journey in handling their children’s hearing loss and cochlear implantation process.  When one has already been facing these experiences personally, it makes all the differences in presenting the information accurately.  However, there was only one scene that I felt that could have been written better and that was the ending when the film presented Sophia 15 years later.  The film showed Sophia who was played by Lisa’s daughter, Miranda, participating in a baseball game.  I would have preferred to see Sophia socializing and communicating through hearing and speaking with a group of friends at a cafe, sleepover party (in the dark), school cafeteria, or any places where people spend time chatting.  Any deaf teenagers, whether they have cochlear implants or not and whether they hear and speak or communicate in sign language, can play baseball.  What makes a deaf person who understands speech clearly through cochlear implants different from many other deaf people is that they can socialize by hearing and speaking with ease.  It would have been great for the audience to truly understand the power of the technology by seeing how well cochlear implant recipients can understand speech.

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