Saturday, December 8, 2007

Learning to hear

The news of Reuben’s hearing air filters through and delights everyone who hears it. There is so much enthusiasm in their voices. But I started to think that, say, with an alternative sense, such as vision, a baby has to learn to see, their eyes developing from staring at bright lights to tracking. I remember Reuben watching his mobile of safari animals go round and around. The giraffe would approach above his head and there would be a delay between the giraffe coming into view and Reuben tracking it to its new location. With time, the delay lessened, the motion became more fluid until the point when his eyes would follow the giraffe as smoothly as the giraffe itself would move and when the giraffe was out of sight, the crocodile would come into view on his left and attract his attention, the giraffe long since forgotten. People would who ask, It must be wonderful to see him hearing? Is he much more responsive? That’s the final piece to the puzzle and the one you thought you couldn’t fix. I guess you won’t need the sign language materials anymore then”. And so this morning, whilst sitting with Michelle and Gwen and from the Early Start Programme for Deaf Children my thoughts awakened to the prospect that if Reuben had to learn to see, then so too would he have to learn to hear.

I began to question this with the girls and yet at the same time, the answers came flooding into my head. It was a dilemma solved through the passage of sleep. If Reuben has been hearing but for four weeks, then he has a hearing age of a four week old. A similar scenario can be made with a premature baby, having both a real age (from when they were born) to a corrected age, based on how old they would be had they been born to term. Knowing little about the development of auditory communication, my mind raced to implications such as that Reuben would need not only to learn to understand and process that sound is sound, is a sense, is pleasurable, has a purpose, but that it is directional and is generated by different people, things and places. I cannot expect to call “Reuben” from behind and for him to know it’s me calling, let alone that he is has the sense of self to know that he is Reuben. I think it’s probably months before a hearing baby responds to their name. And as for sign language, those materials are as appropriate now as ever. He is still deaf, but uses an aid to hear. He will continue to need sign language for the times when he is not wearing his aid. When in his bath, when being put to bed and I pray one day, likely in years, when he is decannulated from the trach and is able to swim in the Pacific Ocean.


skeybunny said...


I love the Santa pictures--Reuben looks like he is enjoying every minute of it.

Don't you love the way people automatically assume that if your child isn't completely deaf, than it means that they will be able to communicate oral/aurally just like "normal" people? It's like blindness--there is a huge range of vision between being "legally" blind and complete darkness.

You have the perfect attitude about it though--keep signing along with verbal interactions, and expect progress to be slow. You can't compare, but our experience is that we've had hearing aids for 18 months and have been signing at least that long, too. Evan understands about 10-12 signs. He only makes 2 or 3 signs on any sort of regular basis (with lots of encouragement--i.e. making the sign for him to copy).

Sarah, Jeremy, and Evan

Candi said...

I have just been thinking about the hearing thing too. We are right about the same place - Luke just got a loaner bone conduction aid. I have been meaning to write you and ask how Reuben is doing with his aid. So far, Luke does NOT like his. I expected that Luke would not like wearing his aid, but didn't even think about him not liking sound. I know it is a process, and not really an issue of liking or not liking sound, but in some ways it seems so odd. Luke has had almost 10 months to see and communicate with us without sound, so adding in this new component is definitely a challenge. Whenever I feel like we are standing on level ground, we need to make a change that throws us back up in the air again. I know this isn't making much sense, but I would love to talk to you more about what you are doing with Reuben. If you ever have the time, please email me at Thanks!
Merry Christmas!
I am so glad Reuben is home and looks like he is feeling better!
Ps. I just saw your comment on my blog - shows how long it has been neglected. Luke started out with an OG tube in the hospital, but he has never had a G-tube or a button. He has some low tone issues with his lower jaw and sometimes spills a lot when he sucks. He also is having trouble gaining weight. He just will not eat enough. Luke actually lost almost a pound in November due to being sick. We are still unsure about reflux. Luke does spit up some - usually he coughs up secretions which make him gag and then throw up. We have tried different meds, but either we couldn't get him to take them, they didn't help, or a combination of both. My hope is that things will get better when the trach comes out, but only time will tell.

ellen charge said...

u write wonderfuly again and as we say in the list sign is good when u all go to meet signing people and he will b able to talk to those i often feel bad i never kept up my sign coz i know a few who do and i find it difficult to talk lol i can do it but sometiems bit they donno wat im saying lol