To Hear Again, To Sing Again. A Memoir by Ellis Douek, ENT Surgeon and Hearing Implant Pioneer

Review by L Flood
Middlesborough, UK

I received a galley copy, a paperback version, of this book, due to be published in late July and I gather the final product will be in hardback format.

It is described on the back cover as a “page-turner” and it is truly a very entertaining read. It appeals so much to any of us who worked in London or any of the “centres of excellence” in the latter decades of the 20th Century. Ellis Douek and his work aGuy’s Hospital still has a major influence on clinical practice.

His description of the senior attendees at a Section Meeting of the Royal Society of Medicine, their projectionist who would invert a lidless slide carousel (I know, he did it to me) and his earliest, unsupervised, introductions to surgery were all so familiar. The waitress service dining room for busy medical staff, the starched white coats, and the phantom waiting lists all took me back to the late 70s. It takes a skilled writer, such as this, to produce a text that will appeal to his contemporaries, his nostalgic “juniors” (now mostly retired) and to the general public.

The book does of course describe his huge contribution to the management of speech and language disorders in childhood, the introduction of the Crossed Acoustic Response as a screen for deafness, tympanoplasty techniques and, especially cochlear implantation. I had not realised he had such an interest in voice disorders and, indeed, a whole chapter is entitled “Singers and Performers” and show how challenging they can be. He is widely travelled and a chapter “Kings, Emperors, Dictators and the Like” is very frank in identifying the many dubious characters involved. He proves a master of the short anecdote.

The book, not unreasonably, concentrates on his medical practice and international academic career but I think it could have easily added a little more on his early life and what sounds like a remarkable childhood. Vague snippets of background certainly suggest that. He and his colleagues held an almost legendary status to my generation and he lists many of his trainees who have gone on to become household names.

This is a very entertaining read and it got me through a record breaking heat wave in one afternoon.

Amazon Link: To Hear Again, To Sing Again
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