Children and hearing loss is a complicated issue. To this day I don’t know when my hearing loss started. It wasn’t something I just discovered one day. It was something I became aware of gradually over time.
For most young children, concepts such as hearing loss or illness, in general, are way beyond our reach. Children live in the here and now and I certainly was no different.
I was 8 years old when my parents first brought me to see a doctor about my ears. I’d love to say that it had dawned on them that something was wrong with my hearing but alas, it was because I had stuck a bead in one of my ears and it refused to come out, (boys will be boys).
Upon removing the offending bead, the doctor examined my ears and set me on a path of over 40 years of hospital visits, examinations, audiologists, and operations.
Why did no one recognize sooner that something was wrong?
Why would they? I was a typical young boy. Full of adventure and mischief. I certainly didn’t know that anything was wrong, so I couldn’t tell anyone. My little friends didn’t notice anything wrong either. As normal kids, we were constantly running around screaming and shouting anyway.
When I didn’t do something my parents asked me to do, it was put down to me not paying attention or having what most parents say about their kids, “selective hearing.”
It was only when that doctor diagnosed me as having hearing problems that my troubles began.
That’s when I became aware that I was a little bit different from my friends. Not that they treated me any different but I knew. I didn’t need hearing aids at this stage, just the first of many operations. This is when my real journey began.
Moving to a new school at 11 years old was a nightmare for me. Not from a pupil point of view I might add. I suddenly found myself being constantly punished or ignored by my teachers.
Some of them simply didn’t know how to deal with me and generally left me out of class discussions. I don’t believe that they meant any malice towards me, they just didn’t know how to engage me, (special needs wasn’t around in those days).
Then there were the teachers who certainly did know how to deal with me. I was constantly punished for not paying attention in class or for not having my homework done or being lazy or in one case, for simply being stupid. This was all done in spite of me continually telling them that I couldn’t hear what they were saying. The most common response I got back was, “You don’t have hearing aids so there is nothing wrong with you”.
That led to a deep seated hatred of education that I carried around with me until I was in my 30’s. I left school on the first available day that I could after my 16th birthday. I eventually went back and even went to university (a distance learning course) just to prove to myself that I could do it.
Then there were the teenage years.
I had 4 or 5 operations in my ears during my teenage years. I still didn’t use hearing aids. They were offered once but I nearly had a fit. Wild horses would not have made me wear anything that didn’t look cool. As far as I was concerned, hearing aids were for old people. I would get by without them.
My circle of friends never once treated me any differently. They would have been aware that I had hearing problems but that was just who I was. It was the girls that I was worried about.
My biggest fear, like most teenagers, was rejection. Mine more so because I was afraid that girls would use my hearing problem as an excuse to keep their distance. I believe that this is the single biggest reason that I developed a skill that I still use to this day.
My self-taught new language.
I began to read people’s lips, facial expressions, and body language. I found that I could almost always tell exactly what a person was saying, even in a crowded disco by reading the other signs that they were giving off. It was like a whole new language I was learning and I must say it didn’t hurt with the girls either as I got a reputation as a great listener.
I have continued to use the other signs that people give off up until this very day, even though I now wear two hearing aids. It just comes naturally to me and is a part of my life.
I survived my childhood. As you can see it was split between good and not so good. Every child with a hearing problem will have a different story to tell. I know schools are a lot more tuned into these sort of things today but there will be other areas where children will still struggle.
Children and hearing loss is a complicated issue. Too often people are too quick to simply dismiss quiet or even unruly behaviour in children as personality quirks. Don’t be so quick to judge. A child’s behaviour may be only a symptom of something else.
The problem with hearing loss in children, in particular, is that it is hidden. You can’t see it and they aren’t conscious enough of it to tell you what they are experiencing. Look for the signs, check out my blog on symptoms of hearing loss in children – Top 10.
If in any doubt, please consult a medical expert, it can make a world of difference.
As always, I welcome any comments you may have. If there is something you want to discuss or want further information on, then put it in the box below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.