Lipreading Mom has a confession to make: One of my beloved kids insists on yelling at the top of his lungs every chance he gets.
At first, I chalked this up to an animated baby expressing himself. His repeated chants of “MAW-MAW-MAW” everywhere we went were charming. In the beginning.
When my Little Squealer learned more vocabularly, his rantings became especially colorful. And exasperating. “NO-NO-NO! NO WANT THAT! WANT THAT!” I heard the “n” word more times a day than I could count on my fingers and toes combined, times 10. So could the onlookers at the grocery store, library, and park who flashed us death-defying stares.
My Squealer entered preschool last fall with the plan that his teacher and assistants would help exhausted Lipreading Mom curb the screaming fits. So far, Miss Wonderful Teacher has spent half of her mornings sitting patiently outside the class with my son as he burst into screaming song. “I DON’T WANT TO DO THAT! STOP IT! I DON’T WANT TO! STOP!”
Convinced that Little Squealer’s behavior was a disciplinary issue, my Hubby and I resorted to a rewards and consequences system. Inside voices at all times, unless playing outside. Reward: More time outside to play and, um, scream. Consequence: Time in his room by himself. Consequences were doled out faster than candy on Halloween. Hubby and I wondered if our boy would ever earn his reward.
Then came the reality that my hearing loss is genetic. Was there a chance that Squealer’s screaming could be attributed to him having a hearing loss, too? He had passed his newborn hearing screening. His preschool audiologist also tested his ears a couple of times, although my boy wasn’t very cooperative. “DON’T WANT TO WEAR HEADPHONES! GET THEM OFFFFFFF!” Needless to say, the school’s test results were a struggle to gather.
Then there was also the issue of fluid in my boy’s ears. For the past few months, he had been on and off antibiotics for ear infections three times. The ears would get better while on the medicine, then return to bright red and yucky fluid-filled afterward. I thought back to my own childhood and persistant ear infections that kept my parents on their toes. When an audiologist tested my ears at age six, the results were that I had “above normal hearing” (whatever that means). However, I still couldn’t successfully participate in my school’s listening lab that required hearing a story by headphones, then answering questions. How could I answer questions I couldn’t fully hear?
Which brings me back to my son. He and I have more in common than being stubborn or, as my mom nicknamed me growing up, Mule-Headed. I had a pathological problem that manifested itself at home and on the playground. I had a loud voice. Let me rephrase that. I had a BOOMING LOUD voice. Screamer? Yes, I was.
Convinced that hearing loss may be the culprit, Little Squealer and I paid a visit to an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist as well as an audiologist. The yucky ear fluid was still in both ears. The answer? Removal of his adenoids and surgery to place fluid-draining tubes in his ears.
The ear surgery went so well that my boy was back to his bouncing self three hours after coming home. The next day, I noticed him responding more to my questions—and even using a quiet voice. He seemed happier, more at peace, confident.
A hearing test scheduled two weeks later would detect any trace of hearing loss. That’s when I saw his stubbornness come back into play. Reluctant to wear headphones in the hearing test booth, Squealer refused to participate during most of the test. His audiogram chart stated: “Hearing Test Incomplete.” It did note that my boy responded when words were said to him. Apparently, he could hear well enough to repeat the words back.
Does my screaming child have hearing loss? The jury is still out. I would hope that, whatever his hearing ability, I can teach him how to use an inside voice instead of YELLING AT THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS. For now, I am waiting on his next hearing test in a few weeks. And Little Squealer is still participating in the rewards/consequences system at home.
While I type this, my boy stands in his room, the bedroom door closed, him banging on his door to be let out. Why? Because he doesn’t like consequences. (Who does?) Even with my hearing loss and the fact that he is upstairs with a closed door, I can hear him. “LET ME OUT! (bang-bang) MOM!”
He has 15 more minutes in his room. Just enough time for me to finish this post and take a few deep breaths.