What a difference a mother makes

Today I want to tell you a story about two little boys who were born two weeks apart. Their mothers were sisters so they were first cousins. Their names were Billy and Joe. I first saw them when they about a year-and-a-half old.

We saw these babies/boys in our clinic many times. We did hearing tests and fitted them with hearing aids. Their audiograms were the same: flat, profound hearing loss bilaterally.

Billy and Joe were both enrolled in early, special school classes. At first it appeared that they were both headed in the right direction. But there was one big difference between them: their mothers.

Billy’s mom was devoted to her baby. She played with him, hugged, and kissed him. She was responsible. She checked his hearing aids daily. She took him to the ear nose & throat doctor when told to. She had meetings with our staff and the staff at the school. She was an excellent mother.

Joe’s mom was different. She was interested in her boyfriend, not her baby. She was irresponsible. The batteries in Joe’s hearing aids never got changed at home. She was forgetful about hearing aid use.



When they were two-and-a-half years old, both Billy and Joe had middle ear fluid in addition to their 80-dB hearing losses. We stressed the importance of taking them to the ENT doctor, but Joe’s appointments were missed and he went years with the fluid in his ears. I talked to the school audiologist and we both tried to motivate Joe’s mom, but phone calls went unanswered.

Billy started talking. He did well in school. His ear infections cleared up. His hearing aids were replaced when needed. His language skills soared. He became a healthy young man. He was mainstreamed into regular school classes.

Joe talked intermittently for a year or two, then stopped talking completely. He communicated with sign language. Both boys were initially enrolled in a “total” language program. Joe developed behavior problems. He was eventually sent to the state residential school for deaf children. He continued to have behavior problems.

I continued to see Billy and his mother for years. They would often tell me about Joe. The story was sad.

These two boys were not identical twins, but in my mind they were almost identical. The only significant difference between them was their mothers. This experience helped me understand what it means to be a “mother.” The love and sacrifice of a mother make all the difference in the world.

If you met Billy and Joe today, you would not suspect they were related. You would not know that they once looked like identical twins and had identical hearing loss. Billy has graduated from high school and has a job. His speech sounds a little different, but you can talk with him and understand him. Joe never did learn to talk, and he has trouble staying out of jail.

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