Dear Mommy and Daddy,
I’ve got a question. The first of about a million I’m gonna ask, but right now I’m only five months old and this first one is important.
Do you know if I can hear you?
If so – are you absolutely sure? Did somebody test my hearing before we all left the hospital – or shortly after? I sure wouldn’t know because, apart from you two, all big people look the same to me – always poking and prodding and checking out my itty-bitty body parts. So I don’t know if someone was checking my hearing or doing something else.
But if my hearing was not checked…well, perhaps you should know that 3 in 1000 babies are born with some degree of hearing loss? So maybe you could check into it – soon, maybe? Even though I haven’t studied statistics (yet), I’m guessing there’s a pretty good chance I’m in with the other 997 (out of a thousand) babies born with ‘normal’ hearing.
But – don’t you want to be sure? This is my life we’re talking about! Even though you spend most of your waking hours watching me, a hearing loss is really easy to miss. You probably think, “Oh the little darling, he follows me everywhere with his eyes. He turns when I enter the room. And he’s a real babbler! ”
Guess what? I perk up when I see you because you’re probably going to feed me! And I know mommy’s smell and I can feel daddy’s feet pounding the floor when either of you walks to my crib. And when you smile and do your blah-blah-babbling at me, I do the same back to you, because it’s happy time! But I can see how all this makes you think I can hear but….what if I can’t?
If there are hearing issues, NOW’s the time to do something about it. And don’t get all guilted out if there is a problem; it’s not like you did something wrong. (This isn’t about you, anyway.) Although, if you don’t have my hearing checked, you might wanna feel bad about that.
When I eventually go to school, I want to be like the other kids…I don’t want to be the one going, “Huh – what are ya talking about?” It would take me, like, forever to catch up. This could seriously affect how well I do in school, with my friends – even my career! (It should be clear to you by now that I’m a bright kid with plans!)
So, back to my first question – do you know for sure that I can hear you? And if you don’t, when will you call the doctor to ask for a test?
Thanks for doing this for me, mommy and daddy, I love you to the moon and back.
PS: Just so you know, this is called Newborn Hearing Screening. I’m no longer a newborn, but better late than never. That’s a hint.
PSS: If my doctor says, “oh he’s fine, he doesn’t need a hearing test at this age”, dump him. Otherwise I’ll barf on him every chance I get. Find someone who will test my hearing.
PSSS: One last thing. Next time you take me to the screaming hockey game, wrapped up in that blankie, please slap on some earmuffs – to protect whatever hearing I’ve got.
PSSST! Have you called the doctor yet?
I wish I had been little Brucie. But I’m 50-odd years older than he, and newborn hearing screening (NHS) wasn’t available way back then. Even when my hearing loss was diagnosed at age three, the doctors did nothing for years besides poking and prodding and even doing radiation on one ear, performed without my parents’ permission. Times have changed. With the advent of NHS, even a mild hearing loss can be detected almost immediately after birth – before leaving the hospital – with a simple, non-invasive procedure.
Why is this screening important?
A child’s first three years are the most critical for developing speech and language. Language, whether spoken or signed, is the glue that connects us to each other. It’s vital to a child’s success in the classroom, on the playground and with future endeavors. Children with unaddressed hearing loss, regardless of how mild, are at risk of falling behind other children when they start school. Children with unmet communication needs can develop low self-esteem and frustrations leading to behavioral problems. In fact, unidentified hearing loss is still often misdiagnosed as behavioral issues, leading to incorrect interventions with heartbreaking, long term effects.
If a baby or child has hearing difficulties, early diagnosis and professional intervention will ensure better communication skills, social development and academic performance.
Mommy and Daddy, chances are high that your baby will have ‘normal’ hearing. Give yourself peace of mind by finding out for sure with a simple, non-invasive screening. If your child does have hearing issues, then you can do something about it. Communicating with your child is one of life’s joys.
Note: This article has been adapted with permission from an article I wrote for Allied Hearing Health magazine, on behalf of The Hearing Foundation of Canada, a strong advocate for Early Hearing Detection and Intervention.