For those of you who don’t know me or are new to read here, I worked in a public school system for almost 15 years. We moved and I had to give up my job. I loved it though and could probably go back and do anything I’d ever done and know what to do. There is nothing like working with kids everyday. It was very rewarding and I loved it and I got to be with one of my boys or the other while they grew up.
I had talked for a few years about volunteering in our local school which happens to have my granddaughter, a 3rd grader and my youngest grandson, a preschooler there. I went in at the beginning of the year and left my name and phone number and told them I’d be happy to help out at any time.
I waited and waited for them to call. There were major budget cuts and I knew they’d need and want help. So the call came and they asked me if I could come in and help with the vision and hearing tests. I was very excited and couldn’t wait to go. I got to meet my grandchildren at the door and wish them a good day.
I was placed in the hearing room. It was a soundproof room with one other person and we did two kids at a time. I was with a woman who had three kids at the school and she was very nice. A quiet person who did the job very well. We blended together nicely. If one of us finished before the other, we just sat quietly and waited for the other to finish. If a child failed one of the 4 pitches in either ear, they were to be marked to be re-tested. So if someone didn’t hear it the first time, we would go back once they got the swing of things and see if they could hear it the second time around. Some of the younger kids were very nervous so they wouldn’t always hear it the first time.
I’d made a “lunch date” with my granddaughter. As long as I was there, I knew she’d love for me to eat with her and the other woman wanted to eat with her kids so for 20 minutes I was with someone else. Her kids ate before my granddaughter. LET ME TELL YOU, I’m so glad it was only for 20 minutes. This second woman was loud and very obnoxious. She acted like the whole thing was a race. She didn’t give the young nervous kid the benefit of a second chance and just wanted to “be done before me.” Give me a break. This was important.
Some of these kids were so funny and it was fun to watch the different reactions that some of the kids had. We would go from one ear to the other and not tell them and if they were getting tested in one ear, they would raise that hand and when you’d switch, they’d be ready with that hand and quickly raise that one and then raise the other one. Almost like you had to raise the hand of the ear you were hearing in. It just goes to show you how different we all are.
So by now your wondering why I wrote and told you this. My oldest son Jason was born deaf in his left ear. We had no idea. When he was in Kindergarten he “passed” the hearing test. There is NO WAY he could have passed that test. Then his next year in school his teacher noticed something and sent him to the nurse and she tested him and got nothing in his left ear. She called and told me to make an appointment with an ENT and we did and found out this news.
Both Paul and I had a lot of guilt. All the times we yelled at Jason “what’s the matter with you, are you deaf” and “can’t you hear me”! It was awful to go through. The doctor told us not to go that route and forgive ourselves because it’s very common for parents not to notice this because he could hear in the other ear perfectly.
I asked the doctor how he could have passed “tests” and he said that younger kids are often prompted with “did you hear that” and reading body language. Or they would raise their hand when someone else did. There is no way to know for sure.
So parents, I beg you, if you feel something is wrong or even if you think things are okay, what would it hurt to ask your doctor to take a look on one of your visits? The people who are checking them at school are people like you or I. Or the second woman I was with who didn’t really care what she was doing.
My kids hear fine, and I’m very lucky for that. I’ve had quite a bit of hearing loss myself, an occupational hazard shared by many in my former career field (I was lucky, I rarely wore headsets, but always at a too-loud volume as to not miss anything). I can hear some very quiet things, as long as there is not a lot of background noise, and of course very loud things, but not much in the middle.
Because of this, I’m very careful about my kids wearing headphones and how loud things are. We have no loud toys (much to the inlaws’ chargrine), the tv isn’t very loud, nor is music in the car. Hearing is a valuble thing, and it can be lost very easily nowadays.
I think I’ll have to wait with my kids, because there is currenly no correlation between what I say and what they choose to hear . . . well, maybe if it involves treats . . . .
This is a good wake-up call, though. When I was in elementary school, they used to do scoliosis checks. My mom has scoliosis and I’d had back pain since I was a “tween,” and my spine sticks out more than normal, so my mom asked the school nurse to check me repeatedly. The nurse always said “she’s just skinny.” Well, turns out I do have a spinal curvature that was identified when I was a teen. It’s not the end of the world, but I could have qualified for and received subsidized therapy and maybe avoided some pain. I was in nearly constant pain throughout my teen years.
It’s much easier to understand someone else’s job when you actually do it. Now, you can look back and understand how Jason passed the tests. Not that it makes it ok, but now you know how it works.
I wish they would test the preschooler’s too. My daughter had to get glasses after she failed the eye test at school, but she made it through preschool and part of kindergarden b/4 they found it. ( Part of me thinks it wasn’t until 1st grade that she got glasses, but I can’t remember!)Had I known what to look for I could have spotted it earlier. I remember her coloring at the table with her head literally an inch away from the paper! I’d yell, back up how can you even see???? She couldn’t!!!!! She had such bad vision in her left eye the doc was surprised she didn’t have lazy eye. She did have to wear a patch though, but now things are much better. The earlier you can catch things like this the more benefit they get.
I wish they had these tests at the public schools and nursery-schools here. They don’t though. The only way my parents knew I was having trouble hearing was because they noticed I started looking at their lips when they talked and not their eyes. I had to have an operation on my ears and thankfully I’m fine now, but if we’d have had these tests when I was little, they would have found out sooner.
Yes slightlyignorant, they are important and finding out can literally cure the problem. There was a class that was in-between Kindergarten and 1st grade here and that’s where Jason’s teacher thought would be best for him. Since we didn’t know about his hearing, she just thought he wasn’t quite ready for 1st grade but was to advanced to repeat K. Since he could hear in one ear only he had no direction of sound so you could call him but he didn’t know where you were coming from. In K, pretty much everything is either done on the floor or in groups. That’s the hardest thing for him because he can’t hear well that way. Once we knew, we made sure his right ear was always directed towards the teacher.
No I don’t hold any grudges in any way for him to have passed those other tests. I was his mother and didn’t know.
Sorry I haven’t been around guys. One of our neighbors had a terrible accident and we’ve all been taking turns doing his chores and I’ve had their 3 kids. Hopefully he’ll be out of the hospital soon and things will quiet down. I’ve been reading but haven’t had the time to make any comments.
This is an excellent post Joy and a great reminder to all of us. I have had Dylan’s hearing checked. My dad is deaf in one of his ears also and it was undiagnosed for many years. He was almost a teen. Being he could hear in one, he was like Jason and back then I guess they didn’t check like they do now.
I would highly recommend that with both the eyes and the ears to do it on your own and not put all the responsibility on the school.
Joy, I was literally thinking the other day that you seemed like someone who would be good with kids, and I wondered if you’d been a teacher. So I’m not surprised to learn you have worked in schools.
Anyway, your doctor was very wise to suggest forgiving yourselves for not realizing your son was deaf in one ear. If he had been completely deaf, you’d have figured it out, I’m sure. And once you knew, you did what needed to be done to help your son. That’s exactly what a good parent does for their child.
Thank you Amy. That’s a nice thing to say.