Katherine Bouton was 30 years old when she began to lose it. The “it,” in this case, was her hearing, a loss that began with a partial decline in her left ear. In the subsequent 22 years, she lost nearly all hearing in both ears for no apparent reason, a physical mystery with deep psychological repercussions. In “Shouting Won’t Help,” Bouton describes her experience — from denial to a frantic search for the cause to learning to live “functionally deaf,” as she describes herself. According to the book, 275 million people worldwide are hearing-impaired, a condition linked to longer life expectancies, living in a noisy world and, in developing countries, untreated childhood diseases such as mumps and measles. But as common as impaired hearing may be, it is often ignored. In some cases, the loss is so gradual that it is easy not to notice; in others, Bouton explains, people are too ashamed or embarrassed to wear a hearing aid. The book delves into the mechanics of hearing and the psychological impact of its failure. “[For] most people, hearing loss remains intensely personal,” Bouton writes. “It is a hidden disability, one often borne in secret.”
Biofeedback, a technique that uses electrical sensors to measure signals produced by the muscles, brain and other body parts, is often used to treat physical and psychological ailments. Now, a smartphone app is helping members of the military take advantage of biofeedback to combat stress. BioZen, available free for Android devices, works with six different body sensors that users can purchase online. The sensors measure signals such as breathing, skin temperature, brain waves and muscle activity, all indicators of how relaxed or stressed someone is. The app receives and displays this information, which can help users control their physical responses to stress. The app, also available to civilians, records the data and generates graphs so users can track their progress.