Going deaf can open your eyes

Noel Holston
4 min readMar 22, 2022
Mural, Atlanta, Ga.

We all know what we’re supposed to do when life goes all “lemon” on us, and that’s precisely what I’ve tried to do since my hearing deserted me in 2010: make as much lemonade, in as many variations, as I can concoct.

One of those variations was writing a cathartic book. My memoir, Life After Deaf: My Misadventures in Hearing Loss and Recovery, is published by Skyhorse and distributed by Simon & Schuster. It’s likely that your local library has a copy.

Another variation is photography, which I embraced in hopes that it would make up somewhat for my loss of music, precious music, as a creative outlet. Even after cochlear implant surgeries that restored some functional hearing, my pitch is so awful I can barely sing “Happy Birthday” in tune by myself, let alone with instruments and other singers to fool my bionic ears and pull me off key. I mostly listen to drummers now. The more complicated the harmonics get, the more music becomes sonic mush.

When I had my second cochlear implant surgery in Los Angeles in 2013 — a do-over for a 2010 operation that hadn’t worked out — I was unable to fly back to my home in Athens, Georgia, until I’d healed a bit. Out sightseeing, my wife and I discovered that the area of West LA near the hospital was a practically a museum of signage dating back to the 1950s, ’40s and even earlier.

Cameo Hotel, Los Angeles.

I started taking pictures with my phone. And once we got back home, I got myself a decent camera, a Nikon with a good zoom, and started looking wherever we roamed for similar relics to snap.

The JOYO, Lincoln, NE

It’s surprising how many are out there, hiding in plain sight in big cities and small towns and along two-lane roads, well-nigh invisible to the locals but practically blinking and flashing to a fresh set of eyes.

The writing on the wall, Augusta, Ga.

I’ve gone on to expand my range, taking photo “safaris” to find not only antique marquees and fading, rusting signs but examples of arresting color — both nature’s and our own inadvertent art — and birds and animals in the wild. Even people.

Kelp, New Zealand.
Bachelor “bed,” Yellowstone.
Rhapsody in blue, Augusta, Ga.
Ladies who lunch, Athens, Ga.
Gogh Gogh girl, Atlanta.
Holdouts, Greene County, Ga.
High ceiling, Atlanta.
On the beach, Tybee Island.
Fountain of youth, Chattanooga.

I share some of my photographs here not because I have any illusions about my mastery of this visual art, but because I hope they will inspire others to keep a camera or a good phone handy.

New housing dawn, Charlotte, N.C.

Keep an eye out.

The End

See and read more of Noel Holston’s work at https://noelholston.com/