My son Connor was diagnosed with a mild bilateral hearing loss at birth. At the time of diagnosis, I went through the typical grieving process but Connor having a hearing loss really didn’t affect me because I myself have a mild bilateral hearing loss and I’ve managed just fine. However, I didn’t anticipate the personal challenges I would face as a parent with a child that has a hearing loss.
My first challenge was my family — my husband and his parents in particular. They had this need to place “blame”, to find a reason for why Connor was inflicted with a hearing loss and that need of reason or blame fell onto me because I of course had a hearing loss myself. And I myself had already been down that road of placing fault onto myself but changed my tune quickly. My hearing loss was caused by a reaction to medication when I was a toddler and the testing showed no indication it is genetic. I feel that on the most part they have gotten over the “blame game”, but every now and then one remark or another will be made and I just cope by ignoring the comment and responding by pointing out something amazing about what Connor is doing or has done and what a great child he is.
My next personal challenge came after Connor was wearing his aids. I love his aids, which are cute baby blue ones that match just about everything that he wears. I was really good about having him wear them. I don’t wear aids myself, and I taught myself to cope without them. I really wanted to make an effort to make sure Connor would feel comfortable growing up with them and not feel embarrassed about wearing hearing aids the way I did when I was a kid. But it then became very evident to me by having the baby blue which stands out, that I would be asked questions about them or Connor. I was totally not prepared for these questions and found myself on the defensive at first. Some examples of these questions and responses are: “Oh what are those things?”, or “What wrong with him?” Or having people snap their fingers to see if he would respond. It really took a lot for me to react calmly so that Connor wouldn’t sense my tension or frustration when I responded, “They are hearing aids. My son has a hearing loss”, or “Nothing is wrong with him. Why do you ask?” or “Do you usually respond when people snap their fingers at you?” (That was not one of my finer moments.) Learning to react calmly has been a great challenge for me and on the whole I do manage to be calm.
My final personal challenges have been in the last year, which has been an amazing year of development. I have been constantly questioned about the fact that Connor even has a hearing loss at all. And sometimes I would even question it myself. So the struggle has been to remind myself that, yes, he has a hearing loss and learning how to explain it to others so that they will understand. “He hears things more quietly than you and will miss sounds and words when he’s in noisy situations” — these I find are the easiest to use.
However, even though I know and remind myself on a regular basis, I have been not so diligent about keeping his aids on. This is mainly due to the fact that he functions so well without them, and he likes to take lots of breaks with them, or take them out and take them apart. Sometimes it’s easier to just leave them out. As I write this, I have challenged myself to be more diligent about my role in making sure Connor wears his aids and I hope that the time off from them hasn’t hindered him in any way.