Becky is 5 1/2 years old. She was born with a severe hearing loss. Her parents and her older sister all have normal hearing. They decided to use speech and sign to communicate. Becky wears hearing aids and goes to a school for the deaf.
To tell you the truth, now I canít even remember why I was so devastated, but I know I was. It may be because she was going to be different from us, or I knew I wouldnít be able to communicate with her as well as I wanted to or at all.
Becky was only a few months old when her parents began to think she might have a hearing loss. Her pediatrician tested her hearing by slamming a door. He thought he saw a reaction. But the doctor trusted mother's intuition. She referred Becky for an audiologic exam.
The audiologist first tested Becky's hearing using behavioral testing. He also thought he saw a reaction. But Becky's mother was convinced that Becky hadn't responded to the sounds. She insisted on an ABR test.
At 6 months of age, the audiologist found out that Becky had a severe hearing loss.
It really is amazing because when that first happens to you, itís a pain you canít even imagine you can cope with. And then you go into that action phase and you start to get more information and you start to act on it, and you almost instantly feel better. Like thereís something you can do, you can control it and you can make it better. And then when you try to look back on what it was like, you canít remember.
Becky's parents left the audiologists office with a pile of information and lists of resources and contact people. They contacted the hearing loss specialist at their local school. They also talked to an audiologist at a nearby school for the deaf. They subscribed to Silent News and searched the internet for information. They read books and purchased sign language videos. They talked to other parents who had been through the same situation.
The speech and hearing therapist came and we needed that. We needed to know that we were going to be able to communicate with Becky. We needed to know what we needed to learn. And then the social worker came out and they actually formed an educational plan. Then we knew, 'Hey, there really are services that weíre entitled to.' If you think that you have to do all this out of your pocket, itís extremely overwhelming. But there are services for deafness.
[The speech and hearing therapist] more or less said to us that we could choose an oral approach, or that we could choose a total communications approach and either way she kept leaving the decision up to us.
In the beginning, Becky's parents were upset that doctors and other professionals they met wouldn't tell them what to do.
They decided that what was most important to them was that Becky could communicate and express herself. They wanted her to let them know what she was thinking and feeling. They were less concerned that she be able to speak.
Because of this and because her hearing loss was so severe, they chose to use both sign language and speech to communicate.
I wanted someone to say, 'Hey, I'm a professional and this is the best thing for your kid.' But they were all noncommital. 'We've only been at this for four days,' I said, but they didn't want to get into that and told us the options and said, 'Make up your mind.'
Now, Becky communicates fluently with her parents using sign language. Here's what her father said about keeping up with her:
We're more like memorizing words, but it's her language. So I'm sure I know more words than she does, but she can communicate better. She even, she's actually on a t-ball team with a lot of hearing girls and one of the moms said to me, 'She makes such great expressions and she can communicate.' So I said, 'Well yeah, expressions, you know, they're important for deaf people.' That's where she just, I think naturally is doing that better.
In the beginning they ordered these really large hearing aids for her, which I understand are like 4 dB more powerful than the minis. But when we got them and she was only 6 months old and just emerging and starting to crawl, they bent her ears totally in half. There was just no way her ears could support the weight of these hearing aids and that was so frustrating and upsetting. You have this little tiny child who has to wear these big gawky aids that bend her ears in half. I just remember feeling like, this isn't going to work. We're not going to be able to do this, you know her little ears won't even support it.
In the beginning, Becky only wore the hearing aids when she really needed them. Here's what her mother had to say about that:
She understands that there's a time when you really need to wear them. When we go to school she asks us to put them on and then as soon as we get in the car, they come off. I usually give her a little down time and then we put them back on and she's okay with it. But you almost immediately have to engage her in an activity where she knows she needs to listen.
Becky wore body aids for about 3 years:
That had a lot of apparatus. She wore a microphone, she wore the body aids, she had cords that went up to the button holes, so it was pretty cumbersome. You had to put it in a backpack, I mean, a belly pack and that was really hard. She went through toilet training with that, with all that apparatus and everything in front of her.
When she was 5, Becky got AVR ImPact hearing aids. Her mother said she's having great results. The only problem is that the aids have broken several times.
We just came back from testing down there. Absolutely phenomenal! I mean, I'd watch her respond to 'S' and 'SH' at 20 dB. It's just so remarkable to me.
Her dad was giving her a bath and she said, 'Don't tell anybody, it's a secret, but I think I'm becoming hearing.' And today, she did so well in the booth with the 'S' and the 'SH' and 'AH', 'OO', 'EE,' [The audiologist] told her to try to say what she heard and she came up with an 'AH' and an 'OO', and an 'EE' and, but she couldn't get the S. She asked how she did on the test and the audiologist told her she was perfect. So she said to her, 'Am I still deaf?'