Most of the people that read this blog are as new to the deaf world as I am, so for those of you that have never seen a hearing aid before, let me brief you quickly on the basic parts. To put it simply, there are 3 visible pieces. The coloured part which rests behind the ear is the hearing aid itself. Then, the part that fits into the ear is the ear mould. The ‘tubing’ connects the two, allowing the amplified sound to reach the ear drum. Our ears are all different in shape, and so the ear mould is unique for every ear. As small children grow, so do their ears, and they then outgrow the ear mould too. The consequence is sound leakage from around the gaps caused by the ill-fitting mould. Not only does this obviously mean sub-optimal sound amplification in that ear, but it also results in frequent high pitched shrieks and scratchy sounds. This noise is very irritating to both the child and other family members. The frequency at which the moulds are outgrown varies with the acceleration of the child’s growth, and then obviously more frequent in a smaller child, but generally, ear moulds need replacing maybe two to three times a year, which in an entire childhood, becomes quite a few times!
So, what’s my point? Just change the moulds when needed and so be it. It’s not always that simple! The process of making the ear impression which is then used to create the little mould, can be quite scary for a small child. It requires filling each ear up with a sticky glue like substance that hardens in a couple of minutes which then is removed. It is uncomfortable, and requires someone being very much in the child’s face whilst the mould is being made. Scary, threatening and uncomfortable. A bad combination for small, already anxious children who have already become sick of people looking into their ears. I think of all the times that I’ve examined children’s ears when they’ve had a fever or a foreign object stuck in their ears. In spite of always being very gentle, getting that close to a child and sticking the otoscope into their ear, is usually not received warmly!
The initial impressions were done whilst the girls were sedated having their hearing tests. So the next time they would need new ear moulds, would be the first time that they would have them done whilst awake. I was nervous. I didn’t want them to become afraid of the process as this was one that they would need to get used to, as it is something that is going to happen fairly frequently. And a stressful experience times 3, very frequently, is far too frequently for my liking! How were we going to make this experience less daunting? The first time that they were taken to try to have the impressions made, was unsuccessful – very nervous, very teary and resistant. So in deciding not to push the issue, I realized that I would have to get creative. However, I couldn’t ignore the screeching for much longer, and it would even frustrate the girls so much that they would ask to have the offending aid removed. Between advice and help from both Julie and Claudine, we had a plan. I would take an impression kit home and show them the procedure on one of their dolls.
Well, my audience of 3 was enthralled! Firstly, my home-made luminous pink hearing aids (which were made for me to wear when Eden got hers to prove that they are actually very “cool” things to have) were draped over “baby’s” ears and then they started to “screech”. Everyone had to make a pained expression and hold their ears. Then, as the drama unfolded, the baby’s ears were glued up with the yellow sticky goo, got a big “good girl” signed for being so brave, and then after a few minutes the hard impressions, removed. The pink aids were then put back, and shhhhhhhhhhh……listen!!!……………. There’s no more ugly noise! It’s quiet and baby is happy and can hear nicely again! This little drama was done three times, once for each child’s baby. By the third act, everyone was very involved. Exaggerated facial expressions (especially from the compassionate Tahlita) spelt out discomfort as the aid screeched, and then much laughing, “good girls” signed, and “high 5’s” once the show was over. Hollywood would’ve been impressed! But was this going to work?
When we got to the audiologist’s rooms to do the impressions, I thought I’d start with the worst, and begin with nervous Hadassah. When she saw the impression kit she whipped out her hearing aid and presented her ear. I then asked Julie if I could try to take the impression myself as I knew that Hadassah would be more comfortable with this. She spoke me through the procedure and I got to acquire another new skill! There were a few tears, but I was expecting far worse! In a few minutes, the impressions were taken, and the tears dried up quickly after receiving a marshmallow mouse as a reward. We thought we’d try Tahlita in a few days, just to give Julie and me a breather. A couple of days later, Tahlita had both ear impressions done without any fuss at all. In fact, she smiled through the whole thing! What a relief!
Being a parent of deaf children is going to be a journey of getting creative, and I’m quite enjoying all the new little things that I’m learning along the way!