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Sound of Metal and the depiction of hearing loss

Contributed by James Pocock

12/04/2022 • 5 min read

The real power of Sound of Metal lies in the overwhelming sense of loneliness that accompanies hearing loss. We normally talk about ‘communicating with friends and family’, ‘enjoying social situations and evenings out’ etc. when discussing the impact of hearing loss.

But the film really shows that our hearing is more than that. It is a fundamental connection to the world.

Early on we have these two scenes, the first is just a simple everyday snapshot of Ruben’s (Riz Ahmed) morning routine.  We can hear the traffic in the distance. There’s a rattle of a metal lid on the worktop, Ruben’s just taken it off a jar of spices (cinnamon maybe?) and pats the bottom of the open jar, holding it over a blender. The blender whirs; there’s fresh coffee simmering and dripping into a pot. It’s a total feast for our senses: our sight, taste, smell and hearing, all at once.

He pants after his workout. He cleans his recording equipment with a hiss of compressed air.

Then he’s on the road with his partner Lou (Olivia Cooke), and we get these snapshots of their meandering but wonderfully natural conversations of their trip. Things like “What’s the thing Meatloaf won’t do in that song?”; “I used to imagine Jeff Goldblum was my Dad”; “Why is it ok to use a toothpick in public but not floss?”, and so on.

We have these two, really down-to-earth scenes: morning routine and light-hearted talk.

Fast forward a couple of days. Ruben’s hearing is nearly gone and this same morning is played out in almost silence. We can’t hear the water running in the shower, or the coffee simmering. We can barely hear the blender. We know how everything should sound because we just lived it, but it’s gone and there’s a really tangible feeling of loss, as if something’s been ripped away from us.

And Ruben can’t communicate with Lou any more. They have to drive in silence and even though they’re sitting next to each other, you feel how alone they are. Not just Ruben, but Lou too, and how painful this must be for both of them.

Ruben’s still isolated at the retreat. Even surrounded by other deaf people, he’s an outsider. He can’t lip read. He can’t sign. And Lou’s gone.

The wind in the trees and the sound of nature is a thread that weaves in and out of the film. Just like in real life, it’s there in the background, we don’t really notice it, but we’d miss it if it were gone. And that’s what is made so apparent, it’s all these tiny things we’d miss, but they’d add up. One of the final shots is of Ruben looking up at the sun behind a tree. We know he can’t hear the wind any more, but we realise he is slowly accepting his new life and hope that he can begin to find the stillness he’s been looking for.

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Treating hearing loss early can significantly improve your quality of life. Book your free hearing test today, just follow the link. Or you can take our online hearing test. It’s free, takes five minutes and is a great way to get a general idea of well you can hear.