Sunday, January 31, 2010

To aid or not to aid?

At the time of Julia's diagnosis, I was thrilled to know that she would get hearing aids and intense speech therapy to overcome the speech and language delay caused by her hearing loss.

She wanted to hear and gave us little trouble wearing her hearing aids. The devices quickly became a part of daily routines. She frequently talks about how her "magic ears" help her because she can't hear well with her ears "plain".

To listen to her sing "Under the Sea", puts a lump in my throat every time. Her constant talking is something that wouldn't have happened without the aids. I know that assistive technology was the right thing for our family without any doubt.

Other families come to a different conclusion. From a similar background of two hearing parents can come a child with mild/moderate hearing loss that is unaided. This is something I struggle to understand. These are not kids that will learn sign language and enter into Deaf culture. They will have a "normal" childhood except for a diminished ability to hear. It seems they get no assistance, as if they're near sighted and can never wear eyeglasses.

The child could be very adverse to the hearing aids. I'm sure they're not comfortable. Some cultures have objections or shame. The financial burden is a prohibitive factor in some states, although cost is no excuse here in PA. If there are other reasons I'm missing, please let me know in the comments.

Readily available research supports consistent appropriate amplification. The Hearing Loss Resource Center reports:

Also, despite the terms "mild" and "moderate," these levels of hearing loss can have a significant impact on a child's ability to communicate. Research by Dr. Matkin and colleagues, for instance, indicates that "a child with an unaided "mild" hearing loss (pure tone average of 35db) misses 50% of conversational speech and lags two years behind his peers in language ability when he enters kindergarten. An unaided child with a 50 db loss (usually labeled moderate hearing loss) can miss 80% to 100% of the speech signal." (from Knowing the Ropes, 1996).

"Two years behind" and "misses 50% of conversational speech" had us expediting the arrival of our daughter's hearing aids any way we could.

We've been greatly rewarded as a family by the choice we made for our child. Instantly, I had a 3-year-old that would stop and turned around when I called her name. I realized she hadn't been misbehaving, she hadn't heard me. I believe behavioral problems would have increased as her time without amplification continued.

I cherish the conversations we have and I love her hearing aids. She loves hearing. Though I never thought of this as much of a choice, for us, aiding was the right one.

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