MY FEB BLOG IS LATE.
Over the last few years, I have been seeing more and more videos popping up where parents are turning on hearing aids and getting a reaction from their infants when they hear the sounds presented. It moves hearing people who have no idea really, what goes into that process to get emotional over the fact that this baby is reacting to sound. In the spirit of why I created this blog this month or last month FEB!! Is about the education of the hearing aid process from our perspective.
When the audiologist has told you that your baby is deaf after a series of tests, they then immediately give you the information on the hearing devices to correct this issue.
The emotional state of the parents is fragile and so like most hearing parents they just follow what the medical staff proposes. The audiologist begins the process for the fittings, creating molds, orders the very expensive hearing aids and then activation. They do not recommend interaction with a Deaf person and they do not refer parents to Deaf advocacy agencies. So far, all hearing people talking about what they are going to do with this Deaf child. When this activation of the hearing aids happen in an infant you have no gauge of what that sounds means to them. We as parents think that they understand the words that we are saying but in reality, they are just reacting to the sound. Audiologists are able to identify the hertz and amps that a person is hearing accurately by an auditory brain response test. But, in many deaf children their hearing fluctuates so there is really no way of determining what words they are actually understanding and what words just sound like gibberish unless they were hooked up to the device 24/7.
In the meantime, the infant is losing imperative time in language development while all these professionals are trying to figure it out or to correct the problem. Now, I am not opposed to these videos or the hearing aid process, if it were a standard practice for audiologists to require parents to sign with their babies while all of this was happening, but that is not the case.
Parents are actually discouraged to sign with their babies, as there is the theory that it stifles speech development. NO! NO! In addition, NO! The language deprivation of deaf children in this country is a result of these philosophies and it must stop!
Videos like these without context must stop.
The reality is, children who do not sign and only use devices have to work very hard to try to speak with much exhaustion. There are many success stories, but there are many failures as well. Taking a chance on the language acquisition of a deaf child is not an option. Here are two things to consider.
1. Hearing aids cost anywhere from $2k- $5k, they are not covered by insurance companies and depending on where you live the price can change. We experienced this first hand. We went to one office where the hearing aids were $3,500 because the population in that area could afford them and would then buy them and all the services that go along with it. When we did the research and found another location who would sell the same hearing aids for $2,000, we knew we were dealing with a business. In addition, when insurance companies view these devices as an accessory and will not cover them in some cases, what does that tell you?
SIGN LANGUAGE IS FREE, with easy access and no stress on the child.
2. The Speech Banana: Let us talk about this for a moment. If you are anywhere outside of this window, you will not be able to understand the words, without hearing aids. Now, this is very complicated. If a person has acquired language and if your hearing is out of the speech banana then you can probably make out the words. However, infants are still learning language, they have no frame of reference to try to make out what the words are. Even assisted with the hearing aids it is very difficult. Now reviewing this table a child with moderate to severe hearing loss is at huge disadvantage. Why? Because they can still hear sounds, but even aided audiologists, have a difficult time getting the right frequency and decibels perfect for language acquisition. Now many counter argue this point by saying, well then the child would be ready for a cochlear implant. True, but those devices require a level of qualifications. Usually in the severe to profound region, 80 – 90 decibels or higher and they do not always work. Again, there are many success stories, but there are many who do not as well. Now, what about those 50-70 decibel kids? Our personal experience was just that. Heath was born with mild to moderate hearing loss in one ear and moderate to severe in the other. Aided as an infant and before the age of two he spoke three words, Happy, Mama and Dada!! We were all excited… we thought. Maybe he will be able to be fluent in ASL and speak too. What a win win… but then his hearing declined after two and he is now profoundly deaf in both ears. Just think if we would have taken the approach to focus on the speech portion of his language only. How far behind would be? 2 years actually. It is not worth that risk.
HOWEVER, WAIT!!!! SIGN LANGUAGE IS FREE, with easy access and no stress on the child. Why not learn it! What harm does it do??
Moreover, I say… why are we still talking about this….ASL.. easy for the child, hard for the parent. What would you choose!
I am Lucia Rogerson and this is my perspective.