It’s been a little over seven months since Alvy got his hearing aids and I wanted to give everyone a quick update on how things are going.
When he first got them at 6 months old he was pretty good at keeping them in his ears, when the audiologist first put them in and turned them on the look on his face said, “WOW!” Clearly, they’re the best thing for him even if it did take some getting used to on my part.
Now, his “ears” are just another part of our lives. He wears them about 4 hours a day, some days more than others. He goes through phases of leaving them in and fighting me to keep them in just depending on the day. The ear molds are made of silicone which he has discovered makes a great teether so when he’s cutting a new tooth he’s especially diligent about ripping them out of his ears and chewing on them.
He wears them clipped to his shirt with ear gear that came in the bag of goodies we got from the audiologist. The ear gear is very secure and when you’re talking about something that cost upward of $2,500 a piece, secure is good. Very, very good.
Over the past year I’ve come a long way in understanding how Alvy’s world sounds to him. I’ve asked the audiologist countless questions and read countless articles online that describe his condition. I found this neat hearing loss simulator and it has really opened my eyes as to how much Alvy can actually hear. It’s really changed my perception of his hearing aids and what they’re doing for him. He’s not just wearing them so he can learn to speak, he’s wearing them so he can hear. It’s been a big attitude change for me.
The more I learn about mild hearing loss, the more I realize that the world “mild” is a misnomer. When we first learned about Alvy’s hearing problem the audiologist said, “it’s mild,” almost nonchalantly. Since that day I’ve been under the impression that “mild” meant no big deal. Perhaps they were being sensitive to an overly hormonal new mom or perhaps they’re used to seeing much worse cases but if anything I’m learning that any hearing loss over 20 db is a big deal.
I’ve read so much about the difficulties that children with mild hearing loss have in school. Without hearing aids, a child with a 35 db hearing loss, like Alvy, can miss up to 50% of what the teacher says and a significant portion of children with minimal hearing loss fail a grade by third grade. I can send him to school wearing his hearing aids and I can advocate the use of an FM system but it can still be difficult for the hearing impaired child to pick up everything a teacher says, as illustrated in this video. We’ve been tossing around the idea of homeschooling the kids and this would be a big reason to do it.
I get stopped a lot when we’re out of the house and Alvy is wearing his hearing aids. It seems I have the following conversation at least once a month.
“Is the deaf?”
“No, he hard of hearing.”
“Do you sign?”
I realize signing is the big trend is baby rearing these days. It seems like everyone knows someone who has taught their baby to sign. It’s true that learning sign early benefits both parents and babies. Our motivation to learn ASL is a little different. I feel that it’s very important for both Evelyn and Alvy to spend time around other kids with hearing problems. I want him to understand that there are other kids out there who have difficulty hearing and ASL is a key part of building and maintaining relationships in the hard of hearing and deaf community. Besides I don’t think anyone can argue that being bilingual is a bad thing.
We’ve started by watching Signing Time on PBS and he’s picking it up slowly. I think the most exciting change I’ve seen is in Evie, she loves learning new signs and uses them daily, sometimes in place of speech, which has been quite a surprise. I love watching her enthusiasm as she picks up new signs and starts using them in her day. I am constantly looking up new signs online as I try to use ASL around the house with the kids and it’s been surprisingly easy to pick up. Most of the signs are very logical and are very easy to remember. We are not even close to being fluent but we’re learning, the hardest part is just remembering to do it often and in Alvy’s sight. Just like anything else consistency is the key to success.
As a mom, you never want to learn that something is “wrong” with your child and when I first learned of his hearing loss that’s how I felt. Now, I know that it’s just a part of who he is. Hearing aids are just another part of our routine, another part of our day. That’s a good thing. When Alvy starts school we’re sure to have a whole new set of challenges and we’ll face them as they come but for now so far so good!