For the past few months I’ve noticed that Leila is saying “what?” a little more often during normal conversation. Now granted, she’s 8 and has the attitude of a 15-year old so it is always hard to tell if she just has “selective hearing” or if she really doesn’t hear me. None the less, it’s been over a year since her last hearing test. With the nature of her hearing loss, it is something we need to monitor. So I took her to the audiologist for a test. Unfortunately my suspicions were correct. In the last year, Leila’s hearing has gotten worse. Her left ear, which had previously been in the severe-profound range, is now clinically deaf. Her right ear is still severe but heading towards profound. What this means is, in the next few years, she could very well lose all of her hearing. The news is obviously upsetting but something I have been preparing for. Fortunately we live in the age of cochlear implants. If and when Leila loses all of her hearing, she will be a candidate for an implant. And if you’re going to have a child with a hearing loss, LA is probably the best possible place to live because we have the House Ear Institute right in our backyard.
Learning that your child will have to face difficult challenges and possibly undergo what is essentially brain surgery can be upsetting to say the least. But the way I see it, I have two choices. I could go down the path of self-pity and worry, or I could chose to look at the positive. Since the time Leila was diagnosed with this hearing loss (at birth essentially), she made it very clear that she was not going to let it stand in her way in any shape or form. Someone clearly knew what they were doing when they gave her this disability because that child was born with the persistence and determination of a bull. As her mother, this can be, um, challenging shall we say? But every time I curse her attitude and the crap I have to put up with, I remind myself that it will serve her well in life. It already has clearly. She’s a straight A student at the top of her class, athletic, social, charming, analytic and engaging. Oh, and beautiful. Can you tell I’m a tad proud of her?
Leila’s audiologist was blown away by her speech and vocabulary, her deafness barely detectible if you did not know. He said, and I quote, “for a child with her level of hearing loss, she is so high functioning beyond what she should be capable of on paper.” He said that when he tested her speech audibility, she tested at around 50%. With a severe-profound bilateral hearing loss, there is no way she should be able to make out that much speech. It is as if she somehow reprogrammed the neurons in her brain to understand what she should not be able to understand. And if you know Leila, you are probably not surprised by this. G-d forbid you tell her she can’t do something, it only drives her determination to do it. “Are you trying to tell me I can’t hear? Screw that!” So I continue to be in awe of my daughter and I know that whatever challenges life serves up, she will overcome. If I could somehow bottle her unrelenting self-belief, I’d be a millionaire.