September is Deaf and Hearing Impaired Awareness month in the U.S. It may surprise you to find out that nearly 20 percent of people in the United States are in some way hard of hearing but there still exists a negative stigma of hearing impairedness and many misconceptions.
Here are some things I wish you knew about my hearing impaired son…
I wish you knew that while every birth of a new baby brings excitement and challenges those are different if your child is hearing impaired.
You first go through many tests for hearing to determine their level of loss. My son was born with a type of loss known as unilateral conductive hearing loss. This means that it is only one side and that the loss occurs in the middle to outer ear. His left ear hears perfectly and while he does have a cochlear nerve, his right ear has progressively gotten worse and he now has what is deemed a profound loss.
He has a condition known as Microtia-Atresia, which means that his right ear did not fully form in utero and he does not have an ear canal or ear drum. In past decades he wouldn’t be aided because for a long time doctors believed if one ear worked, you were fine. It was only in the last twenty years or so that research determined that you in fact do need both ears because they process different parts of sound.
I wish you knew that I’d love for you to ask about his hearing aid rather than make an assumption.
He wears an Oticon Ponto Bone Anchored Hearing Aid and he has had it since he was two months old. When he is older he will have a surgery that creates an abutment for it to attach to his skull but until then he wears it on a band. When he was a baby people always assumed it was a headband and that he was a girl. But no I did not put my little girl in a shirt that says boys rule or handsome. He has finally reached an age where other children ask and he has no problem telling them what it is and that he needs it to hear. No hearing aid makes his ear work, rather they enhance and amplify the sound and the waves so that his brain can process them.
I wish you knew that he is not deaf but does need his hearing aid.
Many completely deaf individuals sign and are a part of a distinct deaf culture. While we have made many connections with individuals and have immense respect for their culture we do not consider ourselves a part of it. He signed as an infant but was vocal at a very young age and we pursued that route. However, regardless of how vocal he is, that doesn’t mean the doctors are wrong and that he can hear better than they think. Yes, I literally had a woman who worked at his daycare when he was an infant tell me those exact words. See my above statement about the research done about unilateral loss needing to be aided, which is exactly what I sent her after.
I wish you knew that it will never hold him back.
He is the most voracious and determined three year old you’ll ever meet. He is very intelligent, kindhearted, and aware of everything. I know teachers who see hearing impaired students as a challenge but the reality is that it is not their brains that are impaired, just their ears. I sincerely hope one day we are able to think of hearing deficiencies the same way we do visual deficiencies. My son may have an ear that doesn’t work the same as yours or mine but his heart works better than anyone’s I know!