A new frequency, a new vernacular: On Reverse Slope Hearing Loss
One Saturday I awoke, life as usual. By that afternoon, life had begun to slide a little to the left as my son was diagnosed with neurological hearing loss. Words I never claimed as my own began to slowly insert themselves into the vocabulary of my life: disability. hearing aid. 504. child study team. degenerative? MRI. personal FM.
How do I explain this? I was not horribly upset by it. More like “…Oh!…Really?“
I am still trying to wrap my brain around its truth. Because I have two main thoughts running in my head concurrently. They might be at odds with each other. The first thought is: I knew it. I knew it all along. I’ve been saying it for years. The other thought is: WTF? It’s neurological? It’s permanent? What the heck is “reverse slope”? He needs a hearing aid? WTF?
Entre vous into of the lexicon of the hearing impaired, its politics and correctness, its technology and test results.
Evan is almost six. When he was a baby, he had a ton of ear infections, but he passed all his infant screenings. He is a highly active, communicative little boy who found ways to express himself without words. When he was two, with the support of his pediatrician, we requested early intervention for speech because he wasn’t talking. That therapy worked and when he aged out at 3 we didn’t see the need to continue. He pronounces all his words almost perfectly.
But there were signs, and lately they’ve been getting worse. He is always asking us to repeat ourselves. He insists that he can’t hear his music or the TV unless it’s turned up loud. Our frustrations mount as he seems to ignore our instructions then claims he didn’t hear us. Listen to what I’m telling you, Evan!!! You need to listen!!! I don’t want to count how many times I’ve said that to him.
It was a quiet, slow suspicion that hovered just under the radar of life. I wasn’t in denial. He seemed fine except for those moments – Evan for the love of all that is good and holy PLEASE turn down that TV! – so it never was the sort of thing you’d stop life for to go get checked.
When we were at the pediatrician I’d mention it casually and she was diligent to check his ears. He always had fluid on them. Once she did a screening that showed he had some loss in the left ear (the one that ruptured during Hurricane Sandy. THAT was fun) but since there was fluid, she couldn’t be sure. Bring him back when the fluid’s gone and we’ll check again, but by that time it hardly seemed urgent. Aside from things that either weren’t that important in daily life and behavioral stuff that could just be a boy being a boy, Evan had no symptoms of hearing loss.
Or rather, no noticeable signs of hearing loss.
He did well in school. Occasionally he’d tell me he got in trouble for not listening to instructions. This didn’t surprise me much — he’s always getting in trouble at home for not listening. He’s curious and fun and a little bit of a clown. Still, he is not a rebellious kid at all; he truly wants to do well. He doesn’t like getting in trouble and takes it pretty hard when he does — especially when he’s in front of a group. So while I wasn’t surprised, I also kind of thought it was weird. This is the strange dichotomy of my son.
He was having trouble spelling, which surprised me. He’s a very smart kid. I’m not just saying that. His brain works in a certain way that’s just — I dunno. Different a little. He picks things up crazy fast. Just yesterday, his violin teacher told him he’s the first student she’s ever had to memorize all the fingering for Twinkle Twinkle. The challenge with Evan is that he won’t feel the need to practice when there’s fun to be had, life to be lived, dancing to do. Especially when he figures he knows it already. So he’s no prodigy. He just knows it and leaves it at that.