Sometimes a difficult experience can test your resolve, and reveal depths of courage that you never knew you had. Our family had one such experience in 2012.
I’m a mom of four children. When I was eight and a half months pregnant with my fourth child, my third child (our only daughter) was diagnosed with a hearing loss that was missed at birth. While our family was still reeling from the news that our daughter had a hearing loss and trying to understand the options available to her, our fourth child was born with a hearing loss as well. My son’s loss was detected at birth and confirmed before he was a month old. The next few months were a whirlwind of tests and appointments as we determined the severity of the kids’ losses, and what type of hearing-assistive technology would be the most helpful for them. By the time my son was three months old, both he and his sister had received hearing aids, and we began working with them on their language development.
Since my daughter’s loss was not detected until she was nearly 3 years old, she faced significant hurdles in her speech and language development. She had missed out on certain sound frequencies for her most crucial years of language development, which resulted in a severe speech delay. This delay is actually what led us to pursue further testing, resulting in her eventual diagnosis. As an infant she had startled to loud noises, and responded to us when we whispered in her ear, so we had no cause for concern. One of our audiologists later pointed out to us that she was probably responding to the feeling of our breath on her cheek rather than the sound itself since you typically only whisper in close proximity to another person.
The last few years have been incredibly challenging as our family has made an effort to overcome the challenges presented by our children’s hearing loss. It has been frustrating, and even frightening at times when we wondered if our children would ever be able to verbally communicate clearly. Both children have received one-on-one therapy once a month to try to assess their language development and develop an individualized plan. Additionally, they have both attended a preschool that is designed to meet the specific needs of the deaf and hearing impaired. Fortunately, our son’s speech development has been nearly normal since his loss was identified immediately, and he has had access to sound through his hearing aids. It has taken far more work on our part to make sure he stays on track in his speech development, but it is a worthwhile labor of love.
Our daughter’s path has been more challenging. While she has made great strides in her speech, she still has a long way to reach a normal development level for a child her age. The three years during which she missed out on access to sound due to her hearing loss has caused a lack of clarity, as she struggles to identify certain softer speech sounds. Her vocabulary lags behind as well, and we have been working diligently to try to help her catch up. Conversations that are effortless for other children her age are a struggle for her. Nevertheless, thanks to the tireless work of our family, her teachers and audiologists she is making progress, and we are hopeful that one day she will reach a normal speech development.
We are so thankful for the support people that we have in our lives helping us through this journey. Between our family, the preschool teachers, the audiologists and our church we have an amazing number of caring individuals advocating on our children’s behalf. We are so thankful that we have not had to face this challenge alone.
This period of our lives has been one of the most turbulent and uncertain times we have ever experienced. We have learned much since the initial diagnosis in 2012, not only about hearing loss but also how to minimize the impact it has on the children’s day-to-day lives. We have also learned that even though it has been incredibly difficult, the struggle has taught us a deep appreciation of small milestones. Each new sound that is pronounced, and every new word that is added to their vocabulary is a victory. The road ahead will not be easy, but they will not have to face it alone.