Last weekend my husband and I hosted a couple friends for dinner and an evening at our house. The wife in this couple is deaf and her husband is a sign language interpreter. As we sat down at the table to eat an ease fell over me. There was no need to feel like I needed to fake understanding with nods or smiles. I have a moderate severe hearing loss and I usually feel anxious before a meeting like this one. That night was wonderful we had something in common, lack of hearing and knowledge of lack of hearing.
We need to find where we belong. We need to find a community or a group where we all get each other. If that group is about sports, animals, children, or in this case hearing loss. Having a group or even a few individuals that understand is a comforting thing. It doesn’t turn into an embarrassment when you ask for something to be repeated or reworded. You don’t get the dreaded “never mind.”
I grew up in Minnesota in the metro area. I was a child with an ear infection every other day it seemed. Ear tubes put my ears more times than I care to count. I know I grew up with a hearing loss now that I think back on my childhood. I never understood how people could understand a whisper. Someone putting their mouth to my ear was just hot air I could feel. Was that how everyone experienced this? Being at a friend’s house and having them all talk at once or talk with music playing, none of this I could understand. I wondered why this seemed so easy for other people. Why did whispering between girlfriends seem fun not an anxiety filled moment. As I grew up and went to college (majored in Communicative Disorders) I realized more and more that yes I had a hearing loss. I just had to get to the point of acceptance.
The past couple years I have come out of my shell and embraced hearing loss as best I could. Hearing aids were purchased. My secret was out. I joined a couple groups that deal with hearing loss and being hard of hearing. I started to put my feelings on to paper or a computer in today’s vernacular. I started my blog Musings of a Momma. I started this blog as a stress reliever–writing in the evenings. When my hearing took another dive down, I decided to write more and focus more on being a hard of hearing mom. My writing got notice by the HearStrong Foundation where I was named a HearStrong Champion. This has to be one of my proudest days behind the birth of my children.
One thing I wanted for my children was to make sure their hearing is on track. I remembering taking my daughter to an audiologist and she tested around a -10db across the board. I guess she is hearing fine! My son came along five years later. He didn’t babble much or start talking till three years old. I had some people telling me autism and some telling me he couldn’t hear. We pursued both paths with him. He was found to be on the autism spectrum high functioning. When we went forward on his hearing we found out he had a mild conductive hearing loss. We continue to have his hearing checked every six months. It has dropped at times and we have done tubes, and adenoids and tonsils out. I just took him to the audiologist last week and his hearing has dropped another 10db. We are off to the doctor this week to see if something medically can be done. He has had no ear infections or fluid in his ears so I am stumped. Then we head back to the audiologist. Just a wait and see with him. He does use the FM system at school where he is in 1st grade.
A great resource we were told about was MN Hands and Voices. Our family attended a family event last spring. Our whole drive my husband and I wondered if we would fit in, our son only has a mild loss. What we found was open arms of acceptance and a wealth of information. We learned a mild loss is a loss and it does affect a child at school. We had some IEP questions answered and found some new friends in the process. It was like the dinner we had last weekend we found that place we belonged. We found a place that understands our questions, doesn’t get annoyed with the What?? If you didn’t hear something right away, they got it. I want my son to know there is a place that we belong and people that understand. MN hands and voices has been that place for our family with our son this past year.
Sara B Lundquist