Sounds of Silence

A deaf activist says the Hobby doesn't want to hear her complaints

"The problem is that when you ask the distributors, they blame it on the producers, and when you ask the producers, they blame it on the distributors," Rob Todd says.

AMC executives did not return calls for comment. Rosen, who is working with him on that case, says, "When we first filed the lawsuit, the AMC Dunvale theater was playing several captioned movies, and they've since stopped."

Janes says she moved to Houston to enjoy the fine arts offered here.
Monica Fuentes
Janes says she moved to Houston to enjoy the fine arts offered here.

Even though they are decades apart in age, Robert Todd and Malisa Janes both rely on high-tech advances to help them try to hear again.

Janes earned her doctorate from the Rehabilitation Institute of Southern Illinois University and was an adjunct professor there. She was 55 when she lost nearly all her hearing within two weeks of a bout with pneumonia. In the small town of Carbondale, Janes says, she felt like she became an island.

"What do you do when you go deaf? I couldn't go to church because I couldn't hear the sermon," she says. "I couldn't go to the movies or even watch TV." She talks about adapting to life with her service dog Miss Annie, a Welsh corgi that Janes says shares her love of fine arts.

"When we go to the ballet she sits in the aisle where she can watch. At the opera she hides under my seat."

But on this recent day, Janes is jubilant about a major breakthrough: She's learning to hear again with a cochlear implant, a magnetic device positioned above the ear that usually enables even those with profound deafness to experience at least moderate hearing.

She turns her head to show where the plate has been inserted and touches the magnetic earpiece to her head. While she does this back and forth she chants, "I can hear, now I can't. I can hear, now I can't."

Todd has made remarkable progress since he received a similar implant in the fifth grade. He and Janes explain that it's the little sounds that make life enjoyable -- things like water running or the chirping of birds.

"During the day little sounds clue you to the most enjoyable things," Janes says.

However, restoring partial hearing will take time. Theater fan Janes explains that she needs to learn to recognize the sound of words all over again -- or The Sound of Music, for that matter. "I've felt like a little kid all day," she says. "My brain has to learn to hear all over."

In the meantime, she plans to be back in her seat at the Hobby for the upcoming TUTS production of My Fair Lady, applauding the cast even while complaining.

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