There is so much to say about growing up with a BAHA, that I think it will take a few posts to fully get my experience across. The second part is mostly about school/education and the impact of a hearing loss.
The 1st thing to point out, is that deaf does not mean dumb! There is nothing a deaf person can’t do, whatever the mind can perceive, the mind shall achieve. This one thing my parents taught me, they made sure that my deafness didn’t hold me back in my education. They were very proactive and made sure I had the best support available.
I didn’t say my 1st word until I was 2 years old, and because I wasn’t hearing things properly, I spoke what I heard-gibberish! My behind-the-ear hearing aids were fitted at this time and my speech therapy also began. I don’t have many memories of my speech therapy, I still have a ‘homework book’ that my parents had containing words and phrases that I was to practise e.g. “The cat sat on the mat”. One thing that I think that helped me a lot at that time, is my elder sister. My Dad will say she’s a ‘chatterbox’. But I like it…She’s the loud one and I’m the quiet one! 🙂 But how you can learn to hear and talk in a quiet house? Having a lovely sister and parents who were always in tune with me and made sure I was always included in family conversations had a very positive impact. They always seem to know when I know when I don’t hear something (probably due to my confused stare). 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents. It’s always difficult to find an effective 2-way communication method.
At school, I had a Teacher of the Deaf (ToD) and a classroom assistant. The classroom assistant took notes of the lessons and always made sure I heard and understood my tasks in the classroom. As I got older, I started to become more independent and my classroom assistants time with me gradually decreased. At the beginning, my ToD came to my school a few times a week and we had a spent an hour outside the classroom doing a lesson. I’ve mentioned before that I feel it was my ToD who taught my how to listen and reley less on lipreading. All those tasks my ToDs set for me, all had a reason. So if there’s anyone reading this who is wondering why you have to do all the extra stuff, trust me, it’s all worth it!
I also had a Radio Aid at school, mostly known as FM system. This helped to hear what the teacher was saying and cut out all the background noise. These consist of 2 parts, a transmitter with a microphone which is worn by the speaker/teacher and a receiver which is worn by the student. Thankfully these days, a lot of these systems are wireless, unlike they were 15 years ago. The wires on mine stretched from one end of the room to the other, not good when you’re a small child! But, the benefit and clarity of hearing the teacher meant that I put up with it and never missed out on a thing. The NDCS and Ear Foundation both have programs available that enable parents and children to try out different systems before deciding which one to go with.
After school, for many years, my parents always sat down with the evenings when I’d read a book for them. This succeeded in getting me to a reading age higher than my actual age and expand my vocabulary and helped keep progress my spoken speech. Everyone at school and home was kept informed in the loop through a ‘home-school’ book where my teachers, ToD, classroom assistants and parents wrote a summary of what I did that day, nearly every day! I still have a few of them to this day and it still amazes me.
One thing that I’ve noticed is that it was my parents who informed everyone of my BAHA and told them what it is and why I have it and what support I need. Many professionals unfortunately feel out of the loop with new technology and there is very little support for them. But it is something that it is being considered so, watch this space!
In the next couple of days, I’ll be uploading a guest post from John, who very kindly sent me his story and shares his passion about hearing loss and how it does not need to be a barrier to success.
Thank you for reading, please leave a comment and any questions.