Losing Music

The most memorable sections in “Losing Music” recount John Cotter’s daily struggles: the frustration of trying to hear his companions at a restaurant, fretting that he’ll destroy his hearing aids in sudden rain, trying to have sex while wearing them (“You just have to learn how to hold your head”). He’s lyrical about sounds we take for granted: wind rattling windows, old-fashioned radiators hissing to life, a cat drinking water. But he reserves his most passionate writing for music, “a world you can live inside. … When you’re young and you’re the hero of a movie, and the Heifetz you play in your car or the Velvet Underground you first try out sex to isn’t just background, it’s location and weather. You feel it on your skin.” On one of the blessed occasions when his hearing and tinnitus aren’t at their worst, he listens to a recording of a soprano. Her voice is “like someone set a candle on the floor and the smoke rose and curled. You don’t see the wind without it — the wind’s too light to see.” Writing that precise and moving helps us to grasp the full measure of the losses Cotter mourns.

— Lisa Zeidner, from “In his moving memoir, John Cotter anticipates a world without sound.Losing Music’ offers readers a compelling portrait of what life is like with the rare and incurable condition Ménière’s disease. (Washington Post, April 12, 2023)


  1. this is such an ode to music and life and the gift of hearing.


  2. Thinking of how we can “tune out” sounds or sights or feelings, sometimes intentionally, but often unintentionally…simply not “tuned in”…(what an expression)! Thanks for making us more sensitive.


  3. Such an outstanding article. Listened to it in detail. Sadly, I know several ppl with Menières Disease. Not only does it affect your hearing, you can no longer control your balance, you get violent headaches, you fall on even grounds even. Your brain can no longer function properly and gives wrong signals to the body.
    I often asked my mum, who went blind what she would consider worse: losing her eyesight or hearing… a question with no answer. Well, she went blind, hence couldn’t read songbooks any longer and in later years she only hummed along when we sang…. she went blind; yet she ‘saw’ far more with her inner eyes, her feelings, etc, than many others with a perfect eye sight.
    The description of the ‘paintings’ this artist draws for us with a near perfect hearing are impossibly beautiful and yet haunting too. A great choice of a theme, Dave. Thank you.


  4. dk, this pains!
    And i need to understand what’s stopping me from journaling my experiences with patients.

    We take it all for granted 😔


  5. Thé things we take for granted, big and small…


  6. This resonates so much. I haven’t lost my hearing but has lost the ability to play my chosen instruments. It’s a harsh reality of our humanity.


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