Wednesday, August 20, 2008

When Hearing-Aids hurt

In preparation for school beginning next week, I cleaned up my daughter's hearing-aids, checked to make sure the batteries were strong, then brought them to where my daughter was sitting with her dad eating a Popsicle.

"Time to wear your hearing-aids." I said. "You need to get used to them again for school."

She'd had most of the summer off from wearing her hearing-aids because she'd outgrown her ear-molds and then it took time to get new ones made and a follow up appointment to have the hearing-aids adjusted. We'd switched to Stanford Audiology for her hearing needs, which has an excellent pediatric program. The audiologist is very skilled at working with children and picking up on their subtle clues to determine what the child can and cannot hear. Queen Teen warmed up to her immediately on the first visit. We picked up Queen Teen's new aids on the third visit. The doctor adjusted the volume after discovering Queen Teen could tolerate a higher threshold of sound than anyone thought. The moment the doctor put the new aids into Queen Teen's ears, before even turning them on, Queen Teen burst into tears.

"I don't understand what I even have to wear them! It doesn't make any sense."

The tears kept falling while the doctor worked to set the aids properly, visibly shaken by Queen Teen's tears. I kept wiping Queen Teen's nose and eyes while holding her close and encouraged the doctor to just keep going. I know my daughter; she won't stop crying until the hearing aids are out.

Back home, I put the aids away, thinking I would give her a bit of a break to get used to the idea again. But every time we talked about it, she'd just start crying again.

And then my husband had surgery, and the dog got mauled, and then Queen Teen had dental surgery, all within one week of each other, so the hearing aids were ignored as I dealt with the immediate crisis my family was in.

One week before school, I put the hearing aids into Queen Teen's ears, telling her she would wear them for an hour to "get used to them again." She wrapped her arms around herself and burst into tears. I decided to ignore the tears, believing if I was tough she'd stop being hysterical and put up with the aids for one hour. Thirty minutes later, she was still weeping. I tried consoling her, talking to her, joking with her. I tried putting in a movie to distract her, but that only seemed to make things worse.

"They don't sound right," she said between sobs. The she started crying so hard she couldn't breath.

I took out her hearing-aids. She kept crying. She said the aids didn't help her and she didn't understand why she had to wear them. Nothing I said, not reasoning, begging, pleading, or logic helped her understand WHY she had to wear her hearing aids. I explained she wasn't the only child in the world who wore hearing aids but she said she didn't believe me.

When she calmed down after I left the room, I overheard her talking to herself. "I don't know why. I just don't know why. They don't help me. So why do I have to wear them."

This was more than being stubborn about wearing her hearing-aids. She cried like her heart was broken, like she was the ONLY person in the ENTIRE WORLD who had ataxia and couldn't see very well and had to wear hearing aids. She kept repeating over and over that she didn't understand and I realized it wasn't just about the hearing-aids, it was about everything. Thirteen is hard enough without trying to cope with multiple disabilities.

After talking with her elementary school teacher, I decided to let school work on the hearing aids issue. Since she wears them at school, perhaps it will make more sense to her to wear them then. Home is her retreat, her respit from braille and sign language and PT. Plus, children always cry harder when their mom's are in the room, as if they're saying, "See, Mom. My heart broke. Can you fix it?"

No, my darling girl, I can't. But maybe your teacher can.

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