100 Sounds to See: Interview with Author Marsha Engle
Douglas L. Beck, AuD, speaks with Marsha Engle about her hearing loss as a child and how she developed the idea for her book, 100 Sounds to See.
Academy: Good morning, Marsha. I’m honored to chat with you today and to help spread the news about your new book, 100 Sounds to See. However, let’s start with a little background. Would you please tell me a little about your recollections of being a child and wearing hearing aids?
Engle: I started wearing a hearing aid when I was seven years old. It was a box with wires attached to ear plugs and it was called a “body aid.” My mother used to make little pockets to match my dresses to hold the hearing aid. One of my earliest memories is jumping rope and more often than not, the body aid would jump out of the pocket and fall to the ground. Shortly after, I was fitted with a behind the ear (BTE) hearing aid.
Academy: Has your hearing loss progressed since you were a child?
Engle: Yes. My hearing was much better as a child than it is now. In fact, I used to take my hearing aid off in high school and put it in my purse.
Academy: Was that because you could hear one-on-one conversations without the hearing aid, or was that more about cosmetics and feeling uncomfortable being different?
Engle: A bit of both. I am a great lip reader and my hearing was better, so I was able to get by. But as you know, “appearance” was a huge factor. Having a teenage daughter brings it all back so clearly. Being different, especially due to something like a hearing aid, just isn’t cool. And at that age, we all desperately wanted to be “cool.”
Academy: Marsha, please tell me a little about your education and occupation?
Engle: I have a business degree, which I earned in 1980 from Eastern Illinois University. When I started my career, I was trained to be a buyer in the hardware department of Montgomery Ward.
Academy: I remember Montgomery Ward. They’ve been in business since the late 1800s and they’ve had a very successful run as a large department store with a national reputation and stores all over the United States.
Engle: Exactly. They went out of business many years ago, but I’ll always be grateful for the experience and skill set I obtained. After several years as a buyer, I moved into consumer products at Helene Curtis. While there, I helped launch over 200 products in both the professional and consumer channels. I worked for Helene Curtis, Clairol, and Alberto Culver.
In 2000, I left Alberto Culver and started my own consulting business when my daughter was four years old. So here we are in 2011 and I specialize in new product development and strategic planning for small businesses.
Academy: And so you’ve become an entrepreneur! Excellent. What inspired you to write and create 100 Sounds to See?
Engle: Like many people with progressive hearing loss, it was very sad for me to realize that so many wonderful day-to-day sounds were disappearing. Sitting on my porch one spring morning two years ago, I realized that visual images really helped me to remember the depth and quality of sounds.
At first, the whole idea was supposed to be for me. I assembled a list of sounds and my friend, a professional photographer named Bill Huber, said he would capture the sounds in photographs. As the pictures started to come together, I realized this was a treasure and could serve as a reminder to all of us to listen to the sounds of an ordinary day…the sounds I miss the most.
Academy: Of course, we tend to take things for granted and we tend to not really appreciate what we have, until we no longer have it!
Engle: Yes, that’s right. Well, I went on a mission to encourage others to appreciate the sounds these images represent. So I wrote a proposal, found an agent, and we landed a great publisher.
Academy: And the final product is not a typical book that one reads. That is, yes, there are words, but when you read the words and examine the pictures—this becomes a book one must experience to fully understand. I went through the book and I must admit the words and images you’ve assembled immediately tapped into my memory with respect to their “signature” sounds.
Engle: Thanks, Doug. I’m glad you had a chance to review the book.
Isn’t it interesting the way the images bring back memories? At book signings, I’ve seen this over and over again—people talk about the pictures. For example, the radiators might bring back the sound of growing up in an old house for one person, while another man talked about the sound of his children playing under a tent with flashlights. His kids are now grown and living far away, but that image brought back the memory front and center.
Academy: Is there one image that really stands out as the most vivid to you?
Engle: Yes, there is one image that is particularly meaningful to me. It’s the image and the sound of the boat gently knocking against the dock. I remember standing on the pier at camp, waiting to jump in to take the swimming test to see if I could qualify for the deep end. I was a lousy swimmer and I was nervous standing there waiting for my turn. The sound of the boat hitting the dock was comforting and calmed my fears. I passed the test, doing the dog paddle!
Academy: And are there any images that aren’t in the book, which evoke powerful sound memories for you?
Engle: Absolutely. Images of children do this all the time. My daughter is a teenager now and she’ll soon be off to college. How I miss hearing their voices in my house! I believe that’s a universal truth for all of us, regardless of hearing or hearing loss.
Academy: Yes, I suspect that you are correct. Marsha, would you please tell the readers how they can get a copy of the book and would you please also list your blog?
Engle: Sure, Doug. To get a copy of the book, just go to Amazon. My blog can be read at http://100soundstosee.blogspot.com.
Academy: Thanks, Marsha. I enjoyed the book very much and I hope the readers will check it out. In the meantime, all the best and thanks for your time today!
Engle: My pleasure, thanks, Doug.
Thanks to Marsha’s generosity, a portion of the sale proceeds are being donated to the American Academy of Audiology Foundation to support research and education in pediatric audiology.
Marsha Engle was diagnosed with a hearing loss as a child. As a way to help her, and others with hearing loss, remember all the sounds of an ordinary day, Marsha asked photographer William Huber help her capture pictures in her beautiful book.
Douglas L. Beck, AuD, Board Certified in Audiology, is the Web content editor for the American Academy of Audiology.