In 1999, our son Brenden was born with a moderate to severe sensorineural hearing loss. His hearing loss was detected through the newborn screening program at the hospital where he was born. As a new parent, I went through different emotions upon finding out the news. When I clapped my hands and made noise he would respond to me, but the audiologist kept assuring me to keep his hearing aids on him at all times. What I didn’t realize was that he could still hear some noise, but not enough to understand speech.
The experience of having a child with hearing loss and my involvement with deaf culture has had a huge impact on my life. It has opened my eyes to a whole new world and culture that I didn’t realize existed. I would have never found the enjoyment of ASL and deaf culture had it not been for the birth of my son.
I feel very fortunate to have gone through the different experiences that I have. I have met a lot of parents in similar situations who are still struggling to accept their child's hearing loss even when their children are older. I think it is crucial that parents see their children for the beautiful beings that they are and provide support and encouragement to them.
Some parents who have deaf children want more than anything for their child to be "fixed". Parent's are still experiencing grief from finding out their child has a hearing loss when they are faced with important decisions about their child's hearing loss. We do live in a hearing world and hearing is a crucial part of life, however, parents need to realize that even though children have hearing aids and cochlear implants, they aren't "fixed" and they still cannot hear with the clarity that a normal hearing individual can hear. This doesn't mean that the child has no hope at a very successful future. This just means that these children need extra support in many different areas in order to be confident and successful. Family support and parental involvement play the biggest role in this success. Even when using hearing aids and cochlear implants, these children still misunderstand speech and still miss a lot of information. Sign language is extremely beneficial in almost every situation, regardless of the device a child uses. Some families opt out of learning sign language for the fear that their child may not learn to speak. Teaching a child sign does not keep them from learning spoken language. Not talking to a child keeps them from learning spoken language.
Brenden is now 16 years old and tells me what he hears. He definitely re-affirms that he just hears noise without his hearing aids on. However, in light of his challenges with hearing, he is an amazing musician and plays the piano incredibly well. He has conquered everything I was told he would never be able to do. He is a happy, healthy young man who loves everyone he comes in contact with. He has been my inspiration to go into audiology to help educate and assist parents and other individuals who face the diagnosis of hearing loss.
I hope you will find this website useful as you search for schools, information and even in communicating with other parents around the world who are in the same situation. Thanks to all the individuals who helped inspire me over the years and helped make this possible.
Shanna Mortensen-Dewsnup, Au.D.