My Twelve-Year-Old Friend Needs a Hearing Aid
by Tina Blue
If you have read any of my "Kidbits" articles, you already know my young friend James. He was the little boy who, as a toddler, always told his parents "That's Not How Tina Says to Do It!"
James first came to me when he was two months old, and I also took care of his younger sister from the time she was two months. These children are among my very favorite kids in the whole wide world. If you ever met them, you would understand why. They are as sweet and funny as kids can be.
Recently James's mother called me to ask me where to get a hearing aid for her son and to get some advice on the type that would work best for him.
James is only twelve years old. Like many kids, though, he suffered nearly constant ear infections as an infant and toddler, and now he has a significant hearing impairment in one ear.
He also needs to get glasses for the first time, which means that a behind-the-ear aid is a possibility for him.
Since he is still growing, an in-the-ear aid would have to be refitted every year or two (at $200 a pop!), and besides, in-the-ear aids can cause a problem if the child has a lot of wax build-up in his ears. James does, and that wax would interfere with the functioning of his hearing aid. Besides, an in-the-ear aid can cause wax build-up in some people, so it would not be a good choice for someone like James.
I am sad that my young friend is already going to have to deal with the difficulties of being hearing-impaired, especially since our society (like most societies, I imagine) has little patience and shows little consideration for those with hearing problems.
On the other hand, I am glad that he grew up in my daycare, because all his life he has been around someone who wears hearing aids but who will not put up with being treated disrespectfully because of a hearing impairment.
Unlike many people with significant hearing loss, James already knows that no one has the right to be rude to him when he has trouble hearing them. He also knows that wearing hearing aids doesn't make you uncool or geeky, because he thinks I am pretty darned cool. (I am, you know.)
I commend his parents for having his ears checked instead of assuming, as so many parents do when their kids can't hear, that James was simply ignoring them when they spoke to him or told him to do something.
My parents assumed I was being recalcitrant, and I was punished for it. I think many hearing-impaired children get in trouble for not paying attention or not listening to teachers or parents. It doesn't even occur to most adults that a child might be hard of hearing. (My mother, grandmother, great-aunt, and younger sister were all severely hearing-impaired, and yet it still did not occur to my parents that I might be hard of hearing rather than just disobedient.)
But James' parents didn't assume James was at fault. They had his ears checked instead. How I wish more parents would try that first, rather than blaming the child who already has enough problems to deal with when he can't hear well enough to function in school or in social situations.