September 29, 2009

Let's Go Crazy*

I'm used to anticipating things that Hadley might miss. Night at the bowling alley? I'll volunteer to help, while watching to see if Hadley needs cues. Assembly at school? Preferential seating up front with a friend or two. Pool party? We'll chat about how to switch between her regular aids and water aids, and how to deal with any problems. Thinking ahead about hearing and listening challenges is second nature at this point, and we just figure out what needs to be adjusted. Sure, Hadley has a severe hearing loss, but she's living a typical life doing typical things with all of her senses.

Every once in a while, however, I'm absolutely floored by something that is so simple, so normal in a regular hearing life that she has missed. A few days ago, I was chatting with a neighbor, talking about the fantastic schoolbus driver that our daughters have. She just happened to mention how her daughter loves the music played on the bus and how she's learning the words to all of these songs. My mind just came to a halt: in over two years of riding on this bus, Hadley-- who loves music, loves to sing, and loves to memorize lyrics-- has never once talked about listening to the radio on the bus. Yes, I know, a school bus is a horrible listening environment for any kid, but wouldn't she have mentioned it at some point? She's jumped off the bus talking about a friend's recap of the latest Hannah Montana show, a joke that was told, who was told to sit down and behave, who has a new WebKinz...surely she would have mentioned a Taylor Swift song or two, right?

So I asked Hadley... a couple of times in different ways over a few days. Each time, the answer was basically the same: she can usually hear the kids next to her, she can hear if someone acts up, she can hear the bus driver call out instructions...but she can't hear the music well enough to make out the words. Since they are listening to Top 40 songs and not the alt kids music we tend to favor at home (ok, yes, music snob), nothing is familiar enough for her to recognize.

Hadley doesn't seem bothered by it (which explains why she's never mentioned anything at all). Truth be told, the music is only played on the 10 minute ride home; it's not a huge deal. But my very first reaction to this was thinking about how we used to beg our bus driver to play a certain radio station and the few minutes of fun we would have singing along until she'd reclaim the dial. At the end of a long school day, wouldn't you want to be in on the fun and not apart from it?

Living life with a hearing loss is all about making the adjustments and finding solutions. What's the challenge here? Hadley doesn't know these songs well enough to recognize them when played and can't hear them well enough to learn them from the bus ride. The simple solution is to learn them in a place where she can hear music well: our car, our house, her bedroom. She is capable of identifying songs she knows well, so she can choose to tune in and sing or tune out and talk. I just added a new station to my presets. We'll see how it goes-- for all of us!

* Let's Go Crazy, Prince & the Revolution: top US single on September 29, 1984

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