July 6, 2009

Understanding the Hearing Loss

A similar question has appeared on several discussion lists that I read: "When did your child understand that s/he has a hearing loss?"

When Hadley was much younger, we gave her language about her hearing aids in the same way we talked about anything new: she had two eyes, one nose, one mouth, two ears, two hearing aids, two earmolds, one head... The physical aspects of her hearing loss were just incorporated into her own self. By the time she was a toddler, we talked about how her hearing aids helped her ears to hear better. She understood that she heard better when her hearing aids were on. As a preschooler at an integrated preschool, she and her friends could characterize each other's medical issues. Hadley has always been able to articulate what her hearing aids are and why she wears them, gradually adding more details to the specifics (I once overheard her talking about "mutated genes" to a classmate).

It's really been in the last year that Hadley has begun to talk to us about what it means to live her life with a hearing loss. Most of the time, her comments are about what she can hear: being surprised that she can hear the fire alarm when her hearing aids are out or being able to tell the difference between all of the bird calls in our neighborhood. When an adult told her that she needed to let him know when she didn't hear him, she was able to tell him that sometimes she doesn't even know that she missed something that was said to her. She has a greater understanding that she works hard to hear (see My Life), as well as an appreciation for what she can hear.

But there are still times that catch her--and us-- by surprise. A few mornings ago, the kids and I were playing in a room with all of the windows open. Her 2 1/2 year old brothers suddenly heard a fire engine siren and began to jabber on about seeing a fire truck while they raced to the window to watch the truck pass our house. Hadley had no idea what they were doing, no idea why they had suddenly raced away from her. By the time I explained it to her, she could hear the sirens as well and raced to join her brothers at the window. Later on, she became a little tearful with me, saying she was sad that she couldn't hear the sirens at the same time as everyone else, that she was always afraid she was missing out on things she couldn't hear.

Understanding what it is to live life with a hearing loss is a process-- for Hadley and for us. We now know that there is no magic age where suddenly all of the questions are answered. But each time Hadley talks about these moments of missed hearing, it's another chance for her to figure out what she can do when she is in the situation again.

Case in point: after the tears, Hadley suggested that perhaps her brothers heard the siren first because she was doing all of the talking, and they all of the listening. We came up with a few strategies that relied on visual clues or asking for clarification. Her solution? To listen more and pay closer attention to what the people playing with her are saying. Only an AVT kid would recommend more careful listening to the problem of not hearing something in the first place!


  1. Hello! I have an almost 6 year old daughter with mild/moderate hearing loss. Her's is also due to Connexin 26. I added you to my blog list. Glad I ran across your blog. :)

  2. Hi Ericka-- thanks for reading and adding me!

  3. I am so glad to found this post. Thank you for sharing.