Maybe the best place to start is to tell The Annie Story.
My younger sister looooved the movie Annie when she was a toddler. What little girl in the 80’s didn’t? Our mom had gotten us the record (remember those?) and she played it over and over singing away at all of the favorites.
I was just 7 years old when my sis celebrated her 4th birthday and I remember her party in our backyard in Miami, FL complete with the homemade papier-mâché piñata that my mom used to always lovingly make. And then I remember – or maybe my mind has created this memory because of the countless times I’ve heard the story told – my sister lying on the family room couch with a fever and feeling so very sick.
It was meningitis. And while she pulled through after many stressful weeks, she lost her hearing in the process. Coming to terms with her hearing loss must have been so confusing and frustrating for her, but the hardest memory was her walking over to the record player, putting on her beloved Annie record and saying: “I know I’ll hear this one.”
God bless my parents’ hearts for being able to weather all that they must have. Now, being a mother of 3 children myself, I couldn’t imagine the heartache that would accompany seeing and feeling your child’s heart break. Knowing that his or her life would be forever changed and that their relationship and access to sound would never be the same.
Sound is about so much more than just ‘hearing.’ Sure, music and conversation are the mainstays of how humans interact with sound, but there are also social cues and warning sounds and calming sounds and sounds that bring joy (and sadness). The biggest consideration of course is that we live in a hearing world. The presumption, like many other exclusionary presumptions, is that everyone can hear. This means everything from schooling to movie theatres and the announcements at the airport are designed for those of us for whom hearing is a forgone conclusion.
What if you could give your (newly) deaf child the choice? The chance to hear (again)? How would having access to sound impact his or her ability to communicate, develop and advance in our world? Knowing that communication is the crux of everything in parenting, I imagine that this decision would be a difficult one for any parent to make. Weighing the desire for their child to hear against the challenges and possible risks that would accompany that choice.
My parents made the choice. In 1985, my sister received a cochlear implant. Of course, the last 32 years of her life are the only way I know her, but given her amazing accomplishments – everything from performing in tap dancing shows, to playing the piano, to joining Toastmasters to earning her Masters degree in Psychology and becoming a school psychologist, and SO much more – I would say that choice was a good one.
This is not to say that the choice to seek a hearing solution for your deaf child is a no-brainer. The considerations are vast and profound – including the reception of the child within the Deaf community. And? If parents decide to pursue one of their hearing solutions, Cochlear will help them navigate that journey with robust online support, resources and the connection they are looking for around hearing loss. They truly want to be a partner to families of children with hearing loss for their lifetime.
To this day, my sister and I share our love for dancing and singing and making each other laugh until we cry. She’s proudly Deaf and her preferred method of communication is American Sign Language. I’ve been tragically lacking in the ASL department despite my repeated efforts to try. Still, there’s no one on this earth that ‘gets’ me the way my sister does – and that kind of communication is priceless.
This post made possible through the support of Cochlear. All opinions are my own.
In operation for over 30 years, Cochlear is the global leader in implantable hearing solutions, providing products (cochlear implants, bone conduction, and acoustic implants) that are designed to treat a range of moderate to profound types of hearing loss. Cochlear has helped over 450,000 people worldwide have access to sound. Learn more HERE.