A boy from Sacramento can see with his ears. RIGHT, Ben Underwood inspecting his prosthetic eyes. LEFT, Ben with his sisters listening to music. Photos courtesy of People.
When Ben Underwood was very young, he lost both of his eyes to retinal cancer. He was only 3 years old at the time. However, when people see Ben Underwood, they see him doing things normal 14-year-old boys would be doing. For instance, all the time, people see Ben skateboarding, playing video games, or playing kick ball with his friends. How is Ben able to do all these things without ever seeing? Ben even told a story of how a kid was planning to hit him in the face because he was blind. The kid was frightened when Ben chased him down until he â€œsocked him a good one.â€
In order to know where things are, Ben uses sound. When he was very young, he would toss rocks or objects and hear where they would echo and where the sound would reflect. His hearing was exceptional. He began to see where things were relative to where he was just by hearing the sounds. His teacher exclaimed how, one time during school, he had dropped a CD off of his desk. When she went to pick it up, he said â€œNah, I got it.â€ Then, he proceeded to pick up the CD. She claims he didnâ€™t feel around, his hand went right to it because he knew where it was when he heard it fall.
Benâ€™s brail teacher, Barbara Haase, even had an interesting story to tell about Ben. One day, they were walking down the street, something they did often to help Ben practice locating objects. Haase told him her car was the third car parked down the street. She told him to tell her when they reached the car. When they reached the first car, Ben pointed it out, saying it was a pickup truck. She was shocked he could tell the difference.
When Ben walks around, he makes click noises that make a steady stream of sound. Bats and dolphins use the method all the time but the skill isnâ€™t usually seen in humans. Dan Kish, a blind psychologist and leading teacher of echomobility among the blind says Ben skills are extremely rare. He says Ben pushes the limits of human perception.
Something like this was thought to be only seen in fantasy. A comic book character called Daredevil is a blind lawyer who has the ability to see with his ears. The film adaptation of the famous comic book series shows Matt Murdock (Dardevil), played by Ben Affleck, making noises to see the world around him. In the film the audience sees sound waves streaming through areas, bouncing off walls and objects, creating an environment for Murdock to see. Whatâ€™s so extraordinary is that Ben Underwoodâ€™s skills are close, if not equal, to the comic book character Daredevil; making the comic not so farfetched.