Turn That TV Down! Are you deaf or something???



So this is another guilty mother story.
And yes Kate… this one is about you!

When Kate was born she was the quietest little baby that ever existed. (I know that’s hard to believe now!) She hardly uttered a word until she was two-years old.

Of course, with two other toddlers in tow, things were a little hectic around my house. By the time I had my third child some things just managed to slip through the cracks. Housework, a full time job, renovating a Victorian, and doing all the things that working mothers have to deal every day, I was eternally grateful that this little girl was so quiet.

And they grew. Year by year they all had their scheduled doctor’s visits and all of them would pass with flying colors at their checkups, all except Kate. Don’t get me wrong. Kate was a happy, healthy little girl who just happened to constantly have a runny nose or ear infection. Often she had a cold. So with every passing doctor’s visit it was determined that she might be allergic to something.

“Just give her a little Benedryl,” I was told, and so for years I walked around with extra tissues in my pockets.

When she went to Kindergarten they started to test every child’s hearing. And she would flunk every time. Of course she had the runny nose all the time and seemed quite healthy otherwise so the technicians would chalk it up to a cold or allergies and I was told not to worry. With everything else in my life at the time, I did just that!

I would come home after work every day and open the door only to find the TV blaring. I would drop everything, run into the living room and shut the volume down.

“What! Are you deaf or something?”

This went on constantly, but since my nanny was somewhat hard of hearing I still didn’t pay attention to it all.

Finally, at her hearing test in first grade, she flunked so badly that the technician recommended that I take her to a hearing specialist. So I did.

After an afternoon of tests, the doctor sat me down in a chair and he sat down in one facing me. He then had Kate stand in between us. He turned her to face me and told me, “Watch this.”

“Katie, there is a spider on you back.
Katie, there is a snake at your feet.
Katie, there is blood running down you leg.”

He was saying things that would have made any six-year old jump or scream or run and there stood my daughter… not reacting at all! Then he told me to talk to her. And low and behold she understood me! How was this possible???

My quiet little girl was quiet for a reason. She was 85% deaf on both ears! Her eustachian tubes never developed. They collapsed at birth and she always had ear infections and runny noses because fluid would form behind the eardrum. This caused scar tissue to build all over the inner ear. How was this possible? She didn’t have a speech impediment. On the contrary, her speech was perfect for a six-year old. She was an honor student in school and was active and participated in class. She had no problem communicating with other children. And do you know why? She learned to read lips!

But how did she learn to speak? The doctor told me that she could only hear very low timbers and vibrations and so she learned to speak from my husband who has a voice that is somewhere below subflooring.  I soon realized that the only time she would really communicate with anyone was when she heard a low voice or she was looking directly at someone.

I was horrified!
What the heck kind of a mother was I who missed this for six years!
The guilt set in big time.

So after a surgical procedure that forced the tubes open and after the doc removed the scar tissues, my daughter could hear. Not 100%, but the surgery was able to give her 90-95% hearing. She was really sick after the surgery and as she recuperated she walked around holding her ears shut because everything was too loud. Of course you all know her today as the shy, retired and quiet individual she grew up to be! NOT!

I guess I’m writing this to all the young mothers out there who might experience a child with the same symptoms. If you suspect something might not be right with your child, check it out.

And watch out girls…
I never really know if Kate can still read lips!

8 comments on “Turn That TV Down! Are you deaf or something???”

  1. Great post — you always manage to inject humor into the most dire of circumstances. Again, I understand how you feel because my learning disabled son (we have compared notes before) also had constant ear infections that did not hurt so I had no clue. This caused his auditory processing disorder. Katie’s situation sounds much scarier. Poor little kid, and poor Mom. Here’s the thing: we trust the medical professionals as though they are gods, and they are not. Even though I know intellectually that they are not perfect, and have many botched diagnoses and procedures to prove it, I still want to believe they know. When I trust my instincts and insist something is not right, it usually turns out to be the truth.

    I’m glad everything worked out but it must have been devastating at the time (not knowing, surgery, sick little girl, etc.).

  2. Wow. I think it’s amazing that she was (and probably is still) resilient. I’m always amazed at how adaptable kids (and adults) can be… Its an awesome thing to be reminded of. Thanks

  3. You have such skills to have told Katie’s story like this. Just like AnnQ, this gave me chills as well. And still made me laugh at the end! Thank you for sharing!

  4. This is such a wonderful piece and a good reminder that IF you think things are awry, don’t hesitate to keep asking the questions. My sister in law wrote about this a few years back as a guest blogger for the NYTimes Motherlode blog – my niece has hearing impairment and it took them a while to realize it. On top of that, there was the denial by EVERYONE (grandparents especially) about the fact that their perfect child could be slightly “less than perfect” (whatever that means). http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/25/revamping-after-a-childs-diagnosis/ All I have to say is thank goodness for those school hearing tests. I wonder how many people find issues through those tests.

  5. Wow! I can’t believe so many people brushed off the hearing concerns when she was little. It is hard to imagine Katie being quiet, that doesn’t seem like her natural state 🙂 I’m so glad everything turned out OK.

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