Did you know that being able to hear is a luxury, even for children? Yes – you read that right – we don’t need to be able to hear the crickets, spring peepers, or even the traffic heading towards us when we are crossing the road. In a classroom where most instruction is verbal – yep, hearing is a frivolous extra — just a cosmetic “nice to have” thing … optional but not required for a life … who knew?????? We didn’t, at least not until February 2019.
Littlest Man’s ears work like a bad cell phone connection – sometimes he hears everything, sometimes he hears pieces of words or phrases, sometimes he hears white noise or static. Unlike that bad phone reception though, in most instances you don’t know where that dead zone is when he is not hearing everything (cafeterias, gyms, and buses are the exception – he mostly hears the white noise/static there).
His ears have been this way since he was at least three months old, and are a secondary result of RSV. Although, in hindsight, I wonder if it hasn’t been longer, as I keenly remember having to check on him as an infant when he slept – he never cried when he woke up – he would just be laying in his crib smiling, silent, and awake. Because of this “bad cell phone reception” hearing loss, I am confident that Little Man has been in situations in his short time on the Earth where he has encountered other people who just don’t get him – that think he just wasn’t paying attention, or that he was not following directions out of wrongheadedness, or when he walked through hallways touching the walls to help him figure out where he was in space he was doing it on purpose to drive them nuts (not because he had any sort of spatial relations issues from structural irregularities in his ear drums), but I digress …
We have been seeing a phenomenal group of ENTs and audiologists going on ten years now, and although he has had a hearing loss all these years, it was not until this past February that it has been significant enough to require hearing aids. Insurance companies in most states, including here in Virginia, consider hearing aids to be an elective – like getting liposuction or a face lift. Yeah – we didn’t know that either … I guess it is not something on your radar until you need them and find out as far as legislators and the insurance industry are concerned – you don’t really need to hear…. anything.
After picking myself up off the floor at the price tag and that insurance does not cover any of the $6000 cost, we signed the papers and paid the deposit to “test drive” the hearing aids that would be the best match for Little Man. I had no idea how we would pay for them, but if this was something that would help him, we would figure out how to make it work. I had just picked up a few side hustles and I could use that income to cover the costs. I still say prayers daily thanking God that our family is fortunate enough to be in a position to do this – I don’t know what families do that cannot figure out how to pull this off, and my heart breaks thinking there are children in NEED of hearing aids that cannot get them because their families cannot swing this financially and their insurance does not cover them!
What did he hear in those two weeks? He heard people around him say the letter ‘R’ for the first time in his life. He heard his teacher’s giving directions in the classrooms over the other noises in the room without having to watch their lips. He heard every word, all the time, in every sentence for the first time. But, the clincher – the one that still gives me goosebumps is what he heard when we walked to the post office one day in town….
“What’s that noise?!” he said with a bit of panic in his voice as we crossed the road to the Farmville Post Office.
“Is it the cars passing?” I asked.
“No .. I know that sound….. that one! That whooshing…”
I listened again. “The wind?”
“Yes!”, he said excitedly. “The wind! That’s it!” as he leaned in listening intently smiling so hard his eyes got lost in his little cheeks.
Tearing up, it hit me. My son has been on this planet for nine years and is just now hearing the wind! A sound the rest of us take for granted, never even noticing, yet Little Man was here in front of me experiencing it with immense joy. What other sounds were we taking for granted that were now opening a new world to him?!
And yet – this is a luxury?!?!?! It is SO difficult to discuss this topic without anger raising within me. How dare the politicians and insurance companies relinquish hearing to a luxury! For just one day – no, make that ONE MEETING, I would like those same politicians and insurance company leaders to have to experience what a hearing impaired person goes through trying to extrapolate meaning from the world without this vital sense functioning. Try sitting through that meeting hearing only parts of sentences, or if its loud hearing only white noise, or only hearing the people with deeper voices because you can’t hear high pitches, or not understanding anything if you can’t see their mouths because you have had to teach yourself how to read lips to get long in this world. Perhaps then, hearing would be seen as more than a “luxury.” To those politicians and insurance company leaders, I say shame on you for putting your bottom line income over the health and well-being of children!
We just completed our November elections, and at least here in Virginia, the General Assembly will be starting their regular session in early January. Please reach out to your representatives and tell them to stop tabling the bill for hearing aids to be at least partially covered for children and vote this through!