A Son’s Hearing Loss; A Mother’s Personal Challenges

By Jennifer Kipling, British Columbia Hands & Voices

My son Connor was diagnosed with a mild bilateral hearing loss at birth. At the time of diagnosis I went through the typical grieving process; I was sad that my son would face challenges as he grew up.  I myself have a mild bilateral hearing loss so I came to terms with his hearing loss pretty quickly. However I didn’t anticipate the personal challenges I would face as a parent with a child who has a hearing loss.

...It still upsets me and angers me when I get the comment “He’s okay, though?” I just want to scream and say, “Of course he’s okay. He is a healthy happy kid who wears hearing aids!”...

My first challenge was my family; my husband and his parents in particular. They had this need to place “blame”; to find a reason for why Connor had a hearing loss. That blame fell onto me because I of course had a loss myself. I had already gone down that road of placing fault on myself but changed my tune quickly. My hearing loss was caused by a reaction to medication when I was a toddler and the testing showed no indication that it was genetic in nature. I feel for the most part that they have gotten over the “blame game” but every now and then one remark or another will be made and I just cope by ignoring the comment and responding by pointing out something amazing about what Connor is doing or has done and what a great child he is. I think once my family realized that Connor could do everything every other kid could do they became less focused on his hearing loss.  It still upsets me and angers me when I get the comment “He’s okay, though?” I just want to scream and say, “Of course he’s okay. He is a healthy happy kid who wears hearing aids!” Frustration is something I have learned to deal with by talking it out with my friends and family who do not pass judgment.

My next personal challenge came after Connor started wearing his hearing aids.  I love his aids. They are cute baby blue ones that match just about everything he wears. I was really good about having him wear them. I don’t wear aids myself; I taught myself to cope without them. I really wanted to make an effort to make sure Connor would feel comfortable growing up with them and not feel the way I did when I was a kid:  embarrassed. However, since the baby blue color definitely stands out, Connor and I are asked questions about them often. I was totally not prepared for these questions, finding myself reacting defensively at first. I wasn’t prepared for questions like: “Oh what are those things?”  “What wrong with him?”  Perhaps the worst was having people snap their fingers to see if he would notice. It really took a lot for me to react calmly so that Connor wouldn’t sense my tension or frustration when I responded.  “They are hearing aids; my son has a hearing loss,” or “Nothing is wrong with him, why do you ask?” or “Do you usually respond when people snap their fingers at you?” (That last comment was not one of my finer moments.) Learning to react calmly has been a great challenge for me.

My final personal challenge has come in the last year, which has been an amazing year of development. I have been constantly questioned about whether Connor even has a hearing loss at all. Sometimes, I even question this myself. So the struggle has been to remind myself that yes he has a loss and learning how to explain it to others so that they understand. “He hears things more quietly than you and will miss sounds and words when he’s in noisy situations...” This kind of response I find is something people can understand. However, even though I know and remind myself on a regular basis I have not been so diligent about keeping his aids on. Since he functions so well without aids and likes to take lots of breaks, or take them out and take them apart, it’s often easier to just leave them out. As I write this, I am challenging myself to be more diligent about my role in making sure Connor wears his aids and hope that the time off from them hasn’t hindered him in any way.   ~

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