I have always associated the Five Stages of Grief with death – until this past year. When my son was in kindergarten he was diagnosed with ADHD. He was hyperactive, inattentive, would get frustrated easily, always looking around the classroom at school, acting out, and had trouble doing whatever he was told. These are all signs of ADHD BUT they are also signs of hearing loss. Something I didn’t know at the time…
For many years his teachers were frustrated, he was frustrated, and I was very frustrated. I spent many days and nights tired and in tears because I just didn’t know how to help him. The older he got the less it seemed the ADHD medication was working for him.
Fast forward to the fall of his 6th grade year.
His pediatrician and I decided to discontinue the ADHD medication. Things were getting worse at school. I was in and out of 504 Plan meetings. Right before the school and I decided if he was eligible for an Individual Education Plan (IEP), they wanted to do a hearing and vision screening and I gave my consent. Several days later, late in October 2016, I received a letter from the school. The letter contained my son’s hearing and vision screen results.
My son FAILED the hearing screening for his right ear. FAILED.
It was then I began to experience the Five Stages of Grief.
I felt many things upon reading that letter – confusion and denial mostly. How could my son have hearing loss? This had to be a mistake. I immediately called his pediatrician’s office and scheduled him an appointment to be seen the next day.
His pediatrician said the school testings have been wrong in the past and he was sure my son would be just fine. He took him to another room to conduct the in office screening and the results were the same. My son FAILED the hearing screening for his right ear. Again. I was still very confused as to what all of this meant for my son and for our family.
Our pediatrician referred us to an audiologist and they conducted an audiological evaluation. At that visit my son also failed for his right ear at the most severe loss being 70 decibels. He has severe hearing loss. Normal hearing ranges from 0 to 20 decibels. When the audiologist told us that he had failed again I broke down and ugly cried – right there in her office.
How could I be a good mother and not know my child couldn’t hear out of one of his ears? How have we gone all this time and I didn’t even think this was a possibility? As many times as I have had to talk loud so he could hear me; as many times as I have had to repeat things to him … I always thought he wasn’t paying attention to me because of the ADHD. I had thought he had selective hearing but never that he actually couldn’t hear me. When I asked him, “Why didn’t you ever tell me you couldn’t hear?” He told me he didn’t know he couldn’t. He thought how he was feeling was normal.
What could I have done differently so that my child didn’t lose his hearing in his ear? Was it my fault? Was it something he was exposed to? I’d do anything for him not to experience hearing loss. Maybe there was something I could to change the diagnosis?
My depression from learning that my son is hard of hearing is aimed towards him. I am sad that my son can’t hear normally. I am sad that my son has struggled and will continue to struggle throughout his life. He struggles in friendships; other kids don’t understand that when they are sitting in a noisy school cafeteria with my son it is difficult for him to hear every word they are saying. Can you imagine noise everywhere and only being able to hear out of one ear? I can’t.
I experienced for myself when my son was sitting beside another boy in a crowded noisy gymnasium. The other boy was sitting to the left of my son – the ear my son has normal hearing. I was sitting to the right – the side where my son can’t hear. I was listening to their conversation. My son’s friend changed the topic and when my son responded it was about their previous conversation. The other boy looked confused. I then explained to my son what the other boy had said and told the other child that my son has a hard time hearing with all the noise. It took all I could to not cry that my son experiences this daily at school and other students have even called him, “stupid” and “retarded.”
As much as I hate to accept this – this is our reality. I reached out to a local group for Deaf and Hard of Hearing children called Beginnings SC. They have been extremely helpful. They helped me navigate my son’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and educated me on hearing loss. If you live in South Carolina and your child is deaf or hard of hearing, I highly suggest contacting Beginnings SC.
My son now wears a hearing aid in his right ear to help him hear better. I’ve realized that my son is perfect just the way that he is and I will do and advocate for him in any way that I can.
**If you think your child might have hearing loss, here is a chart to help you tell the difference between hearing loss and ADHD.**