Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Hearing and Loss: Part 2

(You can read the first part of the story HERE)

When Noah got his hearing aids around three months of age, the audiologist sent us home with instructions to wear them all of the time when he was awake. So the first day, we did.

He was MISERABLE. I was miserable. He was so, so fussy that day and refused to nap. I was afraid that he was overstimulated all of the sudden, and that hearing all the sounds all at once was really overwhelming. After a horrible day, we took a break for a few days. (When his fussiness didn't subside, we finally figured out it was reflux, but that's a different story for a different day.)

So after that terrible introduction, I was hesitant to have his wear the aids all the time. I mean, he couldn't even hold his head up for long periods of time yet, and hearing aid microphones feedback just like normal microphones when they get too close to something. So of course I didn't want him laying on one ear, or sitting in a carseat with the aids in, or anything like that.

There was finally a golden period where he could sit up and wear his hearing aids for a longer period of time, but that ended once he learned how to pull them out of his ears. So to make a long story short, I probably haven't had him wear them as much as he should. There is always an excuse.

Ironically, I felt like I was being nicer to him by not making him wear them 24/7. I was also lulled into a false sense of complacency by the fact that Noah's hearing appeared to be better than that of my youngest brother, who has hearing aids but doesn't always need to wear them. I mean, it's usually just Noah and me hanging out in a quiet house, and he always seems to respond to noises and voices...

But last week, I got to go into the sound booth for Noah's first Visual Reinforcement Audiometry (VRA) Test and hold him on my lap while the audiologist projected sounds at different volumes and frequencies from different speakers around the room. When Noah heard a sound and turned toward the corresponding speaker, a little puppet would light up next to that speaker. Then the audiologist would flash a light to get Noah to turn back toward the front of the room before she projected a different sound. I had my hearing aids in, and Noah didn't. I was shocked at the number of sounds I could hear at a seemingly "normal" volume, but Noah kept looking at the light in the front of the room, oblivious to the sound.

That test made me really, really sad. My heart sank with every missed sound. He may "just" have a mild/moderate hearing loss, but he is missing a LOT without his hearing aids.

Sitting in that booth with my baby brought back some feelings of inadequacy from my own childhood. I have a moderate/severe hearing loss, that dips into the profound range at high frequencies. By and large, I really wouldn't say it was a big part of my childhood. My mom fought hard for us to grow up with a sense of normalcy, and I really only felt different when I had to take my hearing aids out in the pool and couldn't hear my friends. (But Noah's hearing aids are waterproof! Yay for technological advances!) Anyway, for as long as I can remember, I have always erred on the side of being a very performance-driven person, and sitting in those sound booths as a kid was stressful for me.

I always had wonderful audiologists, and the best parents. But the fact of the matter is, you walk into that booth knowing you're about to fail a test, and everyone outside the booth knows it, too. The audiologist says words to you and expects you to repeat them, but you don't have hearing aids in and you can't lipread and suddenly, it's all a foreign language. So you repeat words, almost certain they're not the RIGHT words. Then they play sounds at different frequencies and volumes and ask you to push a button when you hear a sound. I so desperately want to hear the sound (even to this day) and I'm straining so hard to hear ANYthing, that I'm pretty sure sometimes I just hear sounds in my head and push the button when there's nothing to actually hear! That booth can make a person crazy.

Sitting there with my baby, who has a lifetime of sound booths ahead of him, was harder than I expected. I'm so ashamed I haven't been taking his hearing loss seriously. I'm so sad about what he's already missed. I feel so negligent for not getting him new ear molds before the other ones were ridiculously small. I'm ashamed that sometimes I forget to check the battery before putting my kid's hearing aid in. I'm sad that sometimes his hearing aids are ringing in his ears and it's too high pitched for me to hear and then my husband comes home and tells me, and all I hear is, "you're a terrible mom." (Of course he is NOT saying that, but that's what it feels like sometimes.) It's a lot of pressure, this motherhood gig.

I never let myself think of hearing impairment as a possibility while I was pregnant. Of course, the odds are NOT in my kid's favor. Hearing loss is a dominant gene in my family, with roughly a 60-75% rate of occurrence. Yet... I'm not sure if it was denial or common sense, but for once in my life I told myself there was no use worrying about something that may or may not happen. But it happened. And it's taken me 9 months to start coming to terms with that.


  1. Don't be too hard on yourself. You are a great mom and doing the best for Noah! Loved reading your story, both parts.

    1. You're so sweet! Thanks for the comment. It's hard to see the big picture sometimes, isn't it?