Sounds for Jimmy

Hi Radiolab -

I have a question for you all at the intersection of science, health and parenting.

My son is 3 years old. He was born significantly premature, and as a result, has had a lot of difficulties. He made it out of the hospital none the worse for wear, and we were elated. Then he contracted meningitis, and we almost lost him.

One of the consequences of the antibiotics that saved his life is that he is now slowly losing his hearing. His cochlea is steadily turning to bone. We just got MRI and hearing test results to confirm that in the past six months, his hearing has gone from 70% in the right, and 100% in the left, to 0% in the right, and 80% in the left.

We don't know what will happen with his left ear-- he may retain some hearing. But there is no treatment, no drug, not even a technique or medicine in clinical trial, that is known to put a stop to the likely steady loss of hearing. It is up to chance.

We will almost certainly have a cochlear implant installed in his right ear very soon, and his left if he needs it. These can help deaf people regain the ability to hear and use speech, but you lose the incredible palette of the sonic world. Speech sounds like it is being processed by a slurring robot underwater. Music can be unintelligible. Your aural experience is mediated by static and hum.

I am struggling because there is nothing I can do to stop this.


I am looking at the next few months as an opportunity to assemble a sort of mixtape of sound experiences for my son. I want to make sure that he at least has the memory of symphonies or the ocean or tropical birds. Maybe that memory of sound will allow him to... hear more with the implants.

So, here is my question to Radiolab: If you had a limited time left with hearing, what would you want to make sure you heard? What should be on the mixtape?

Thanks for any ideas you might have.



Recently, Radiolab received the above letter from a listener. 

We love the question it poses. We thought about sounds we love, like cracking an egg into a sizzling pan, water running over rocks, or Gregorian chanting. We’d like to make a “mixtape” for this kid, Jimmy, and we want your help. What sounds should Jimmy experience? 

We know that there are so many ways to experience sound beyond typical hearing. If you’re d/Deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, or Deafblind, we’d love to hear from you as well!

Email us your submission-- whether it’s an audio file*, a text idea, or a link-- at


If you can, send us an accompanying voice memo (or if you prefer, a write-up we can record for you OR an ASL video) with the following:

  • Your name and where you’re from.
  • Say hi to Jimmy!
  • Tell us the sound (or sounds!) you think we should include in Jimmy’s mixtape, and tell us why. Note: If it’s music just give us the song title and artist or send a link – no need to record it!
  • And/or, record the sound yourself and send it to us! 


*Audio file submission information: We will accept links to files in cloud-based storage like Google Drive. Some email servers may reject large file attachments. By submitting content via email, you are agreeing to our terms and conditions available at You’re giving New York Public Radio permission to use your submission.