December 9, 2010

Telephone Time

As a preschooler, we made sure that Hadley regularly talked on the telephone to build up those pure auditory and listening skills. Dan called from work to ask specific questions about her school day, and she talked to other relatives frequently. Sometimes, when we were delayed in traffic, I handed Hadley my cell phone and had her explain to her therapist, Lea, why we'd be late to that week's AVT session. Hadley did not use the t-coil setting on her hearing aids, as she found it annoying, but we discovered that increasing the volume on the phone worked just as well. She did especially well with our old Uniden 900MHz cordless phone, so we invested in battery packs for that specific model to last us for years. With consistent exposure, she was turning into a pretty savvy phone user.

Then we had twin boys and I became, well, busy.

Hadley still uses the phone a few times a week but, as her language and people's expectations of her have increased, I've felt less confident in her abilities on the phone. Despite living in a world of texts and emails, phone skills are a life necessity. I've noticed improved phone conversations with the new hearing aids, which automatically switch to the t-coil setting when held up to a phone. On my long list of things I mean to do, I've been planning to increase opportunities for Hadley to use the telephone, but still haven't gotten around to it.

Yesterday afternoon, the telephone rang. It was a friend calling to talk to Hadley.

As I went to fetch Hadley in her bedroom, I was thinking about what I'd do. She's talked on the phone with friends before, but not recently and not with these aids. Plus, kids can sound a little slushy over the phone wires. Would I stay nearby in case she needed assistance? Hover? Suggest that she sit in a certain room to decrease background noise?

I handed the phone to Hadley, told her which friend was calling...and she took it and walked back into her bedroom, closing her door. Oh, the other option I had overlooked: letting her manage on her own.

A few minutes later, Hadley came downstairs, still chatting away. She found her backpack, took out her homework folder, answered her friend's question about math, said goodbye, and hung up the phone. Then she returned to her bedroom. End of story.

I have a tendency to overthink things, which (although, at times, useful) can be annoying. I'd love to know what they talked about; if Hadley controlled the conversation or if it was more equally shared; if she had to ask for clarification; if she misheard anything. I could make recommendations for the next time the phone rings for Hadley or suggest that she call a different friend every so often for regular practice. Or I could keep my questions to myself and let Hadley roll with it. I'll probably wind up somewhere in the middle, where I'll ask her to answer the phone for me more frequently and increase those opportunities more naturally.
Two useful tips for the telephone:

1. If you are in the market for new cell phones, consider those that have an intercom feature for calling between extensions. While I have no interest in installing a phone in Hadley's bedroom, I do ask her sometimes to bring an extension into her room. She might not hear me call her name with music on or the door closed, but I can page the extension and she'll answer.

2. While nothing replaces actual phone conversations, there are a few ways to practice without a partner. One that I particularly like is Cochlear's "Telephone with Confidence" program. Although designed by a cochlear implant company, their listening skills programs are suitable for hearing aid users as well. After calling into the 800 number, the listener can opt to listen to a short list of single words as well as a recorded paragraph, then go to the website to download the day's entries to read what was said.


  1. I love this post, and I love Hadley's name (My niece, Hadley, is named after Hadley, MA). I agree re: using a phone that works well. I have a Blackberry with M4/T4 ratings, and it's superb. When I had hearing aids, I could not use cell phones well. With my cochlear implants, though, it's the opposite. Hadley's in good hands with Lea and her parents! :) Thanks for sharing. Pauline in Texas

  2. Thanks, Pauline! While we didn't name Hadley after the town, we did stop to take pictures of her with town signs when we were last out at Clarke School!

  3. My husband is really excited for Julia to get the T-Coil activated in her aids. We're waiting until she's a little older. For now we use the speaker phone on our cell phones. It depends on the clarity of the other person's speech. My mom she can hear fine, my mother-in-law not so much.

    I'm so glad Hadley was able to understand her friend. The phone is such a big part of being a little girl. Hopefully, we'll get our situation sorted out soon too.