July 25, 2010

"I Can Stream Netflix to My Ears!"

Audiologists will tell you to expect three to five years out of a set of hearing aids for a child. We are at 2 1/2 years and I'm already antsy to trial new models. I've never loved her "new" aids, mainly because I feel they gave her just slight improvements over her previous set. However, Hadley reported better hearing, and I really thought that, with a little fine-tuning, we would eventually find the sweet spot. Yup, I'm still waiting.

Over the last six months, we've been hearing "What?" and "I didn't hear you!" more and more throughout the day. Booth tests still showed Hadley's regular, consistent results, so I've been wondering what else could be the cause: the head cold that never went away; speedier and more complex language; loud brothers; a bad batch of batteries. Despite doing more listening activities with her (AVT never goes away), the struggle continues. Hadley is weeks away from entering third grade, when the brunt of teaching and learning turns auditory. I'm worried that we haven't done enough.

A booth test last week showed a decrease in Hadley's word recognition and, before I could ask, Hadley's (wonderful) audiologist asked if we'd consider trying a new aid. YES!!! After practically stalking Phonak's and Siemen's websites for months, lurking on listservs, and scrolling through conference websites, I've been thinking about new technology and wondering if I'm crazy to consider dropping the equivalent of a family trip to Disney (airfare included!). I love when the professionals validate my wishful thinking!

Convincing Hadley was another thing. "I love my purple aids!"; "I chose these aids myself!"; "I don't want any other aids ever!". I finally let slip a little bit of information that I had hoarded: we can buy an adaptor that will wirelessly stream an iPod directly to her aids. Right now, if she's not plugging it into the stereo directly, she either listens to a Nano with its built-in speaker (like it's 1985!) or winds the earbuds around the top of her hearing aids (functional, but not pretty). She stopped dead in her tracks while her eyes truly opened like saucers.

"Mom. Does it work with TV?"

"The computer?"

"It streams stuff to my aids?"
"Well, yes."

"So...I can stream Netflix to my ears!!!"

Not that there was any doubt, but Hadley is a true child of the 21st century. I happily agreed that yes, she could stream the audio from a Netflix movie that she watched on TV directly to her aids, relieving her of the "chore" of turning the volume from 35 (what seems to be normal listening volume on our system) to 40 (what usually works best for Hadley). Ever since, Hadley has talked about how she can't wait to demo a new set of aids. So excited, in fact, that she talked at length today to her 100-year-old great-grandmother about how she could stream sound to these new aids. Talk about a generation gap! (I described it as listening to the radio...close enough?)

So we wait...this time for the call that tells us to pick up a loaner set to demo for a few weeks. The timing is perfect, as Hadley has Ecology and Camp Invention coming up in August (how lucky are those kids?!). Awesome audiologist? Check. Ideal testing conditions? Double check. Eager recipient? Triple check. Now, if only Phonak would start offering casings in green (Hadley's favorite color), I could declare all out perfection.

I'm not sure who is more excited to start testing aids, Hadley or me. I'm trying not to get my hopes too high up...but it would be so nice for her to start third grade knowing that the seemingly simple art of listening and hearing wasn't going to be so hard. And, seriously, how cool would it be to stream Netflix to your ears?

July 11, 2010

The Dangers of Passive Listening

Hadley has been sick with a summer cold for the last five days: headache, fever, sore throat, sneezing, coughing, and now conjunctivitis and an ear infection. She has not been a happy camper, and the long days at home plus long nights being awake have taken a toll on us all (read: we're all cranky). Early this morning, she took out her left aid after complaining of pain in that ear, and put it down on her chair. I was mediating a property dispute between her brothers (item in question: recycling truck) while unloading the dishwasher and making breakfast, so noted to myself that one aid was out. Sometime later, Hadley left her seat to throw away her medical detritus (used tissues, cough drop wrappers, and hidden candy). I was vaguely aware that she said to me, "I'm wrapping my aid in tissue to keep it safe", but was in the middle of doing laundry and not in a position to take her aids.

Yes, we all know what happened next.

Sometime later in the day, I was fortunate enough to question why the mound of used tissues I had just picked up from the kitchen counter felt so heavy. A few synapses clicked, and I was able to rescue the abandoned hearing aid. It is now resting comfortably in the Dry & Store, where it should be.

Hopefully, the antibiotics she started today will kick in for Hadley to resume some activities tomorrow. At least we're not missing beach days at the end of the summer...

July 7, 2010

Wordless Books: The Hows and Whys

While waiting for my kids at the library, I heard an adult ask a 2-3 year old to pick out a book to check out. When the boy handed her his choice, she glanced through it and said, "This book doesn't have any words. Pick out a better one-- we can't read this!".


Granted, it takes a little bit more effort to read a wordless book to a child. We've all gone on autopilot before, reading the words and turning the pages, but completely tuning out. (I'll slowly raise my hand to admit that I have fallen asleep while reading to a child.) But once a child knows how to read a book without words, the story can expand and change in countless ways. Those same pages turn into hundreds of different plots that evolve as the child gets older. If you do it right, you might even find your child spending 10, 20, 30 or more minutes alone with a wordless book.

Nearly all wordless or almost-wordless books tell a basic story, which is easily inferred from the pictures. Keep it simple at first but, with a child who is expanding expressive language, you can take off. Use the illustrations to expand the plot, ask questions, develop dialogue, or follow a specific character. Take turns discussing what happens next. If your child is reluctant to expand the story, consider modeling how the story can change each time you read it...or just move on to a different wordless book.

Some titles that we have loved include:
Hug, by Jez Alborough
Tuesday by David Wiesner
You Can't Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum, by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Preiss Glasser
Clementina's Cactus, by Ezra Jack Keats

Although Richard Scarry books have some text, most kids seem to focus on the illustrations only and explore all possible plots. A more recent discovery for us has been In the Town All Year 'Round, by Rotraut Susanne Berner.

Not just for preschoolers, wordless books can also be a great way to encourage an older child to practice some creative writing. You can even make your own, or suggest that your child do so.

For more ideas on how to share wordless books with kids or other titles, here are a few more resources:
"Wonderful Wordless Picture Books"
"Talking about Wordless Picture Books"
Reading is Fundamental List

July 1, 2010

Pool Time, Part 2

Just when you think you've got it all figured out...

Hadley's summer of swimming has gone great in this first week, but there's always bound to be a hitch when you least expect it. Hadley and her cousins were swimming at a family party a few nights ago, and all was going well: her aids were out, but Hadley was able to lip read and modulate her voice just fine. She's able to swim well enough that I could relax (somewhat) and talk with my family while I kept an eye on her. All was great...until it became dark, too dark to see faces to lip read. Night time swimming is a new thing for us! I took Hadley out of the pool so we could decide what to do. She really wanted to get back in the water, so we agreed that I would sit near a tiki torch so she could see my face. By now the darkness and bugs had driven most of my relatives inside, but a few of the bravest kept me company for another hour. Other than trying to get her attention in the dark (a noodle to the head worked well), things were fine. While I don't expect nighttime swims to be a common thing for us this summer, I might have to add a flashlight and bug spray to our car bag!