Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Learning How to Hear for the Second and First Time

William did a very nice job of writing about what happened at the appointment, and the video cuts out a lot of the less interesting parts of the Activation Day appointment this morning.  My homework now is to practice listening to words from one person at a time in a quiet room with only my implant on.  (Today, I had my hearing aid in my left ear for practical and safety reasons.) My mom is going to be the first to help me with homework tonight, and if I'm lucky, I might be able to understand her voice a little bit by the end of it.  We're going to keep it simple. I imagine that I'll get out some of Molly's baby books and go through them. "Ball." "Bath." "Kitty." Rigorous stuff.

I love parallelism, so here's some more from my dad about the first time that I learned to hear.
Because hearing impaired children often have serious challenges in learning to communicate, the therapist recommended to us to enroll Rebecca in two-year old pre-school classes later that year. Additionally, she would attend weekly therapy sessions at Sunshine Cottage. Practically speaking, that meant that her mother would have to load Rebecca (and a newborn brother) into a poorly air-conditioned 1971 Datsun and drive her to San Antonio for therapy every week. If there is a hero in this story, it is her mother.

Also, hearing-impaired children have to “learn” how to hear, meaning that they need to associate an aural impulse with some particular meaning. Again, the role of “teacher” fell to Rebecca’s mom, who often would react to a particular sound by pointing to her own ears and saying to Rebecca, “I hear that!” so that Rebecca could catch on.

We had been under the na├»ve impression that as soon as Rebecca could hear sounds, she would suddenly learn to talk. That was also a slow process, assisted by much therapy – formal and informal. If one cannot hear a sound very well, it is very difficult to imitate it in speech. That is why hearing-impaired children have such a hard time making the “sss” and “zzz” and “shhhh” sounds. They just can’t hear these soft sounds. We have been grateful for the dedicated work of school district speech therapists who have helped Rebecca.
Oh, a word about learning to talk. Dad points out that my hearing loss cuts out high frequency sounds, so I've had trouble reproducing sounds I can't hear. Today at my appointment, Amy was asking about whether my hearing had changed at all over my lifetime. She kept saying, "The way you talk makes me think that at some point when you were young, you were able to hear those sounds."  Even after my mom got there and insisted as nicely as possible that my hearing has always been terrible, Amy didn't seem terribly convinced.

Here's the deal. I had to suffer through years of frustrating, maddening speech therapy while I was in public schools. I don't remember being a terribly cooperative patient, but little kids don't often have much say in what grown-ups make them do at school.  Nor did I really understand the point of it. And I especially hated being pulled out of class to go do special ed stuff.  When I was at BYU, upon recommendation from my dad, I had two more years of therapy in their on-campus clinic with graduate students. Everyone loved me because adult patients were so hard to come by. I was a much more cooperative patient by then. And here in Austin, I had a friend who was a speech therapy graduate student, so for about a year, I would go to her apartment once a week for therapy sessions.  It has taken me a very long time to get where I am today. And maybe once I'm comfortable with the implant, I'll be ready for even more therapy.

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