There is the silence in the middle of the night, when no bird is singing, no engine noise disturbs us, when we hear no human voice. At such moments the world seems to have come to a standstill, to have fallen out of time. Such absolute silence may wake us – it does not comply with the norm. In such case we may wait for a „saving sign of life“: a barking dog, a snoring partner, a child murmuring in its sleep without waking up. Those small noises are soothing, they reestablish the norm.
Regarding the significance of silence in Judaism and other religions I found this fascinating passage from a book.
„Whereas the upright person expresses praise through the spoken prayer, the just through moving lips voicelessly, whereas the pious does not release the work from his tongue, the understanding holy man hides his worship inside: „Once a person reaches the highest level of understanding he must remain silent“. In Buddhism, silence exceeds the language itself. In Buddhist dialectics one must overcome logical thinking. Truth flares up only in the indissoluble contradiction, and only in enacting silence will enlightenment be achieved. This Zen experience defies any rational access.
The silence to which the self-named ascetic exposes himself brings him completely into himself. Not everyone can stand this voluntary retreat from the community. Silent orders such as Trappist or Carthusian monks permit speaking only on exceptional occasions. Even meals are not taken communally, except on holidays.
The Freemasons initiation rite also includes a moment during which silence is kept and nothing is said. This detail was revealed in the Magic Flute: for the duration of the tests that will finally lead him together with Pamina into the Temple of Wisdom, the priest imposes the duty of silence on Prince Tamino, the purpose of which is for him to be wholly into himself and his objectives.
Any healthy person who voluntarily submits to such silence, can end it any time he wants. His ability to listen and speak suffers no lasting damage by even a long period of silence.
It is sometimes simply beneficial to retreat from the multitude of stimuli that unceasingly hit us. Acoustic and optic stimuli are the two most intensive sources of excitation. Since the brain has a separate „switchboard“ for each stimulus, as a rule no mental overload occurs even if, for instance, the disco music is too loud and the lights too dazzling. Not the amount of stimuli causes the overload, but the actual consumption. Sometimes however we cannot avoid being stimulated.
For persons with autism the borderline between the barely endurable and unendurable stimuli is extremely narrow.
Persons with autism certainly did not choose their problem. Their daily life is a constant fight against the unavoidable. Their survival mechanism is to retreat into a world known and explored only by themselves.
It is different for people who are deaf and dumb from birth.
They have chosen neither the stillness nor the silence that surround them, which are not due to illness, nor can they end them at will.
In early societies the very fact of being „dumb“ implied that you were stupid. Nowadays society only considers a person to be dumb, i.e. unable to communicate, who is not familiar with sign language. Such a person is designated „sign-language speech-impaired person“.
People who are deaf from birth and were not so lucky as to enjoy appropriate training in early childhood, lack the capacity to hear and to form useful tone sequences that create words. They are able to read and write. However, they cannot engage in a conversation at a normal rate of speech. The logical alternative is to learn sign language.
There are also children who, as long as the auditory nerve is properly formed during the early fetal period (until the 3rd month), develop hearing ability. Should this not be the case, experts suggest an operation during the first year of life, which is the period during which language acquisition occurs. There are two windows of opportunity for an operation in infancy. The first is between the 8th and the 9th month. Long-term studies show a significantly high number of babies and toddlers who, thanks to this help, develop normal hearing ability and as a consequence acquire language, so that there is no need for further help. The second window of opportunity ends at the age of about 3 1/2. It must be made clear that the longer the brain is denied acoustic stimuli, the greater the danger of permanent deafness.
In the case of a cochlear implantation, an inner ear implant is inserted under general anesthetics in the course of an operation that takes about two hours. The external part consists of a microphone, a speech processor, a coil and a battery. The implant includes a coil, a signal (speech) processor with stimulator and stimulating electrodes. The two coils are fixed with magnets.
Acoustic signals received via the mike are transformed into electrical signals by the speech processor. Afterwards the signals are transmitted to the internal speech processor. The processor transmits them to the electrode array that was placed into the cochlea. The electrodes have a stimulating effect on the hearing nerve and, as a result, the impression of hearing is created in the brain.
For people who have never heard in their life this is an overwhelming experience, but beside the happiness it can also cause fear. Overstimulation might lead to fear and terror.
For this reason it is extremely important to start rehabilitation and hearing training as soon as possible after implantation. The brain must slowly learn how to assign the stimuli to the corresponding regions and process them there. But to do so the brain must first learn how to differentiate between various noises.
The younger the patient, the faster the learning process.
The second big learning task is to connect words familiar to the patient with the corresponding sounds, i.e. what a toddler achieves daily without problems.
The operation costs about 20,000 Euro, post care expenses not included.
Presently, 17 children from Gaza, as well as from Judaea and Samaria, are undergoing this life changing operation at the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. The treatment was enabled by the Peres Center for Peace. This Center, initiated by the late President Shimon Peres, was established to help Palestinian children in cases of medical emergencies.
Six of the 17 small Palestinian patients have already undergone the operation. In several cases the documents for entering Israel had first to be issued by the Israel Defense Ministry, because they had no documents whatever.
The children also arrived without any medical documents. They first had to undergo a thorough check-up in Jerusalem to ensure that their general condition allowed surgery.
A new world has opened up for these children. Now they will have to stay at a rehabilitation center for the time it takes them to acquire sufficient verbal assurance to get along by themselves in daily life.
© esther scheiner, israel
© Translated by: Translations International, Herzliya