If you are not deaf yourself, and know no deaf people, you might begin where I did, years ago, in my understanding of deafness. I imagined that the worst of losing my hearing would be the loss of auditory pleasures-children’s voices, late Beethoven, loons calling at night across a northern lake. I was ignorant of any distinction between people born deaf and those who became deaf later in life. I assumed that deaf people led hard lives and must desperately want to hear and to speak. I assumed that sign languages had been invented for them by hearing people, and must be pale substitutes for spoken languages.