Food For Thought Friday: Can You Hear Me Now?

Neither of my sons could hear very well until they were about 18 months old.  They both passed the hearing tests administered in the hospital, and we trusted that they could, but they could not.  We discovered it differently for both of them.

The Human Cannonball was a relatively early walker, he was walking just shy of 10 months, and by 10 1/2 months, he was running.  There was never any trace of balance issues when he was walking. It was at the same time that he began talking. His first word was "puppy" only it sounded like "conky." We thought it was kind of cute, and laughed a little every time he said it. Until he started to say some other words, like "daddy" which came out sounding like "gagn," or "mommy" which sounded like "ngaaang." He would say his version of the word, we would repeat it to him correctly looking at him directly, and he would repeat very confidently and deliberately his version of the word. I knew that boys are often later talkers, but my gut told me that wasn't the case with him. He was trying so hard to communicate, and the words didn't sound right to us, but they did to him. Once I put my hands over my ears and asked Mr. Lindstrom to say the words, they sounded exactly like the Human Cannonball was pronouncing them.

Thing 2 was a little different. He walked much later than his twin sister (I know I'm not supposed to compare them to each other, but it's really hard not to), and once he did start walking, he weaved back and forth like a sailor back on land for the first time in months.  That wasn't really what tipped me off. It was the fact that if I was standing on one side of him and said his name he absolutely had no reaction. If I was on his other side, I had to say his name a few times loudly and he would slowly turn his head as if he was only slightly aware that someone was trying to get his attention.  Because I had already had a child with hearing issues, I didn't hesitate. We went straight to the doctor.

Both of my boys had bilateral tubes at 18 months.  It was the magic bullet for us.  Immediately as we left the hospital we noticed each of them taking in the world in a different way. With one of them it was a horn honking that sent him flying, the other was following the birds sounds in a way he never had in the past. His head was darting back and forth every time he heard a song, like he was following a bird with his eyes, only they were hidden away in the trees, so I knew he couldn't see them. He could hear them. Before, they could only hear in black and white, but immediately after surgery, they were hearing in color.

Up until those moments, I had been the mom at the park yelling at the top of my lungs to my boys, while onlookers no doubt thought I was the "screamy mom," I was only trying to make a sound loud enough for them to hear. Now, the doctors have told me not to worry about delays in communication or speech for a while, because kids are so adaptable. I have to disagree.  I am watching my daughter who has no hearing issues learn to communicate, and she is leaps and bounds beyond where my boys were at this age with comprehension. I used to watch other moms communicate with their boys of the same age, and they were hearing and obeying. It took the Human Cannonball a very long time to learn to listen (which is different from hearing), try using his words first (vs. throwing, hitting, or biting), and undo some of his default sounds that he used when he couldn't hear. I am seeing some of the same behaviors with Thing 2, and it is definitely a parenting challenge that isn't any easier the second time.

Usually when I tell people that my boys had tubes, they assume that they had chronic ear infections. The Human Cannonball was only treated for one, and Thing 2 was treated for the same one for about 6 months.  It really was the hearing issues that tipped me off, and after doing our due diligence (waiting through an allergy season to see if the fluid found a way out), both were cleared for the surgery, and for us, it was the best decision we'd ever made.  Both boys had major language explosions within a month of the surgery, and there were some subtle changes that we noticed right away. Even though the challenge of introducing them to language (imagine if you spent most of your life communicating with people in Greek only to find out that they only understand English, and even worse, you thought you were actually speaking English...) is definitely a challenge, it's definitely a good challenge to face.

I tell you this story for two reasons:
1. So that you may pay different attention to how your children are developing. If there is anything that is concerning to you, ask about it. But, here's the key: don't stop asking if you are told that it's normal. Keep asking. Because, at some point in their development it may cease to be normal, and then may be treated. Whether it's hearing, or something else.

2. Follow your mom gut.  With both my boys, it was no more than a gut feeling that there was an issue. Most medical doctors take Dr. Mom very seriously. They realize that they only see a snapshot of your child in their office, while you have the whole picture.  Trust yourself, and speak with authority.

You know your child better than anyone, and some of the fixes for what seem like big huge problems are so simple.  For us, this has been life changing.  What major event has been life changing for you as a parent?

Food For Thought Friday is brought to you by the amazing folks at Welcome Baby Care. They are THE postpartum and newborn experts. Check out their website, and don’t forget to “like” them on Facebook to take advantage of all their knowledge. Also, be sure to follow babycaretweets on Twitter to receive news and ideas on newborn care and thoughts about parenting!

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