My three kids range in age from 3 to 10. Two of them go to school full time, and one is currently being taught at home by his Lipreading Mom. Although each one has amazing abilities that I notice even though I’m maternally biased, I sometimes wonder about their ears. They come from a long line of hearing loss starting with their great-great grandpa and ending with their mom.
Or does the loss end with me?
Over the past month, I’ve taken each of my children to their school district’s audiology department. The older two did the standard hearing test in a sound booth: listening to beeps and repeating words dictated to them via headphones. My youngest’s test was more exciting. He watched a small stuffed elephant play drums inside its cage each time the audiologist sounded a beep. My little guy was more interested in waiting for the expected drumming animal than listening for the audiological sounds. All three of my children passed their tests with hearing results in the normal to above normal range.
One day afterward as I sat in my 6-year-old daughter’s bedroom, she asked me to listen for something.
“Do you hear it?” Her ocean blue eyes squinted at me.
I strained to hear whatever “it” was even with my comprised hearing ability. No luck.
“Sorry,” I said, brushing her hair for bedtime. “What do you hear?”
This time, she closed her eyes. “It sounds like ringing.”
I held the brush in mid-air and tried with all the listening power I had to hear what she described.
That’s when I heard “it”: the ringing sound that had been my constant companion since an audiologist diagnosed me with progressive hearing loss 10 years ago this spring. I visited the doctor because of the noise that filled my ears 24/7, which I later learned is a medical condition called tinnitus. Sufferers of the aggravating condition might also hear whistling, beeping, screeching or tweeting sounds that no one else can hear. It’s often a precursor to hearing loss.
“Sweetheart,” I said to my little girl. “Is the sound coming from inside your ears?”
She nodded. “That’s why I can’t hear my teacher when the room is all noisy.”
My daughter, whose hearing tested normally in a quiet audiologist’s sound booth, can’t always hear well in class because of her ear noise.
I went back to that audiologist a couple of days ago and shared my girl’s story. Not only would this very kind professional note this on my daughter’s file, but she was also going to let the school know. I plan to share tinnitus coping strategies during an upcoming parent-teacher conference at my girl’s school.
Be watching my blog for how the school meeting goes, and for suggestions on living with tinnitus’ ear noise. In the meantime, whether your loved ones have hearing loss or not, Lipreading Mom urges you to pay a visit to the audiologist for a yearly hearing test. Tinnitus is only detected and manageable if you stay on top of it.
If you have kids, do them a favor and get their ears tested pronto!