October 15, 2009

When Silence is NOT Golden

It's pretty simple: Hadley wears her hearing aids when she is awake and keeps them on all day. I disagree with the idea that kids need a complete break from their hearing aids; yes, listening and discriminating words is a tougher job for them, but there are alternatives to just turning off sound entirely. Hadley presents herself to the world as an oral communicator, no different than any other typical kid. She speaks, she responds, she hears, she listens, she discerns: to then have times during the day when she isn't expected to listen is contrary to all of this.

But I do recognize that listening and learning through hearing aids is exhausting. Just like any parent responds to their child's highs and lows, I make sure that I respect Hadley's need to sit and chill- especially after a full day at school or coming home from an activity. She'll curl up with a book, find a quieter corner of the house, play outside on the swing, or play in her room. Some days it's just for five minutes, some days longer. However, the hearing aids stay on. Whether conscious of it or not, she's learning how to find those quieter moments during the day when she rejuvenates, where she's tuning out the sounds of life-- but not turning them off. Suggesting that she just solve the problem by limiting her hearing denies her the opportunity to learn a life skill that most of us just acquire naturally (not to mention being a safety issue).

OK, so the hearing aids stay on all the time...what's my point? Last night, in a particularly chaotic moment when Hadley needed peace to complete her homework and her brothers wanted to do nothing other than sing and play their instruments, I shocked myself by thinking, "She could just turn off her aids for a few minutes of quiet." It would solve the problem, right? Her brothers could do their thing. She could finish her work. I could get ready to go out for my meeting without interruption. What harm could come from this?

I stopped myself though. Asking her to turn off her aids to get some peace solved my problem and, indirectly, hers. It made my life easier, as I didn't have to stop and figure out another solution. It might even make her life easier at the moment, because she could fly through the rest of her homework and have more free time. But my job isn't to always make her life easier, and no one benefits if I take the easy route myself.

The aids remained on. The jam session was postponed until later. Two 2 1/2 year old boys were redirected to another activity. I stopped looking at the clock and took a seat next to Hadley, who finished her homework without further interruption. Problem solved, hearing maintained.


  1. Thanks, Kerry! I am going to share this with a few parents.

    Recently one parent said to me;"Well, he didn't wear his hearing aids all weekend. I just couldn't get him to put them on. Now he's back in school and he wears them. That's Okay, isn't it?" You know how I answered.
    "No, that is not okay. What you are saying is that you don't mind if he struggles to hear clearly all weekend. You are saying that you don't mind if he misses important detail that everyone else is hearing. Is that what you really want? Did you ask him to put his hearing aids on?"
    When she answered with; "NO, I just wanted him to have a break. He didn't seem to mind." I knew the issue was more complicated.
    When hearing aids are perscribed and a child shows benefit from listening with hearing aids, any time without wearing the hearing aids is giving that young developing brain a disadvantage. The time w/o hearing aids also tells the child that hearing clearly does not always matter. It also says to the child that his parents do not care about him wearing the hearing aids. It might also say that the parents DON"T LIKE him wearing hearing aids - very complicated.
    When this parent said to me; "Now, don't think I am a terrible parent, please. I can do better. I will make sure he wears his hearing aids."
    I added encouragement; "Yes, I know you want your child to hear well and to help him use his hearing to develop full auditory cortex so that listening becomes an integral part of his personality."
    I think when she reads what you wrote in your blog she will understand even more about the importance of "listeinng twenty four seven" - well, "listening every waking hour" with hearing aids in good working order.
    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughtful observations and wisdom. You are helping many people understand what life with hearing aids is like.

  2. Thanks for this post, it is a very important point that those hearing aids need to be in and powered on during all waking hours. I look forward to following your blog!