Libby Collins is a mom with hearing loss. When she contacted Lipreading Mom, I found it interesting when she mentioned her young child also has hearing loss.
Here is Libby’s story…
A Mom and Child Get Hearing Aids
By Libby Collins
Early one morning in September, my daughter Olivia and I awoke to get ready for our 7:30am appointment to get Olivia’s first set of hearing aids. I was scheduled to get mine later in the day.
Last year, Olivia, a seven-year-old second grader, arrived home from school in tears with a letter in hand, after a school-wide hearing screening. I dreaded this letter and without opening it I knew that the letter was to inform me that my daughter has hearing loss.
I have struggled with hearing loss since my 20s. My father has hearing loss and his mother, my grandmother, was the hilarious character of every family joke about her ridiculous comments and behavior because she could not hear a thing. I hated not hearing well and have always felt it a great weakness. To have passed this on through my DNA to my beautiful daughter was devastating.
My hearing has gotten worse over the years but it worsens so insidiously that I never woke up and said to myself, oh my hearing is worse. Though audiologists have urged me for years to get hearing aids, I refused. I was too young, I did not want to admit that I had hearing loss, and I used the excuse that they were too expensive. Health insurance does not help out as it does through vision programs for eye glasses.
I could hear enough to function in most day-to-day situations. Yet, I missed a lot. I could not hear my young children’s comments in the car as we drove to school. I became aware that as I missed those comments I could not respond in a way that showed I was listening or that I cared. I became more and more distant from others, social situations, fun little conversations among friends. Did you know that the most telling information, the most private and personal comments, the funniest punch lines, and the nuances of intimacy are most often expressed in soft tones and whispers?
I saw in my father a frightening realization of what I could become if I did not get hearing aids. Dad never dealt with his hearing loss and as he grew older, I realized that he spent more and more time alone. When he did engage in conversation it was either about logistics or aspects of his life, where he did most of the talking. If the conversation shifted, a well hidden look of unknowingness would come over his face as he smiled or simply looked away. I recognized that look on my own face as I found myself doing the same thing when I had missed too much of the conversation to continue.
The most devastating impact of my hearing loss was on my relationship with my husband. He became increasingly frustrated with my inability to hear him. The effects of hearing loss are so insidious that I did not realize how disconnected I was becoming. As time passed, hearing loss made it harder for me to stay focused and to really listen. Hearing is not just about hearing sounds but the ability of the mind to stay focused and understand all that is being communicated. For years, he thought that I did not think his words were important; he thought I did not care.
Life was no longer like a walk along a beautiful path through nature, noticing that every leaf is different, that the colors of nature are breathtakingly gorgeous. My life was becoming more about survival and logistics as I distanced myself from loved ones and the joys of connection.
Once we confirmed my daughter’s hearing loss with my Otolaryngologist, she began to reveal to me that she had trouble hearing the sounds of consonants when she was trying to spell out words. Even more frustrating for her was that she was missing the whispers among her friends during class when they were supposed to be working but giggling and socializing instead. Olivia developed an amazing eagerness to follow directions and ensure that everyone else do the same. If there was no whispering, she would not miss out.
Olivia decided at her doctor’s appointment that she wanted hearing aids. She did not want to miss the whispers anymore. Clearly, she was selecting her own path down this road of hearing loss, and I was so proud of her.
When I took Olivia in to be fitted for her hearing aids, the audiologist confronted me with “and you will be getting hearing aids too.” Bless his soul, he brushed by the expense of the ordeal and my own discomfort. He displayed the various models and, like a well-trained cosmetologist, began to match them to my hair color, all before I could hesitate. When I questioned him on cost he said we would find what worked for me and figure the rest out later. He fitted Olivia with a beautiful set of very small purple aids and me with light brown to match my hair.
That morning in September when we arrived to get Olivia’s hearing aids, we were both a little nervous. I was focused on Olivia and was happy to put off anticipating my own experience since I was to get mine that afternoon. This morning we would focus on Olivia and make her feel as at ease with the aids as possible. That wonderful audiologist, however, seized the moment and came into the office with her set and mine. “Let’s do you two together.”
The very first sound I heard through those hearing aids was abrasive, loud, and a little tinny. The sequence of my thoughts went like this: “Oh, I don’t like this”, “Wow, what a muffled, quiet, and disconnected world I have been living in”, and then “these are going to change my life.”
As Olivia and I walked out of the office wearing our new accessories, we were silent in our wonder and amazement. The world came alive, someone turned on the lights, and I knew life was going to change. I whispered to Olivia, “I can hear my sandals flip-flop on my feet!” and she whispered back excitedly “I can too!”
Hearing Loss in America
Between 27 and 35 million Americans suffer from hearing loss. Less than one-third of those with hearing loss use hearing aids. Studies by Johns Hopkins University researchers, the Better Hearing Institute, and others show that untreated hearing loss is linked to depression, loneliness, reduced alertness. It jeopardizes overall health, constitutes a significant societal problem, and diminishes individual earning power. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Florida, 14.9% of American children between the ages of 6 and 19 suffer from hearing loss.
Libby Collins is a grant writer for non-profits and enjoys working for causes with passion, particularly projects that address children, nature, and health. She is also an Iyengar Yoga Teacher and finds passion in helping people make space in their bodies and between their thoughts. Libby lives with her two children in Colorado, and when not at the computer or on the mat, loves to be out in nature doing almost anything.
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