Let’s celebrate the role that dads play in the lives of their children who are deaf or hard of hearing! Fathers on the LSL journey play a central role in their children’s listening and spoken language development. In May, we asked mothers what goals and dreams they worried their children may never achieve and the moment they realized everything would be okay. This month, our focus is on the specific stories from dads.
News of a child’s hearing loss can come as a complete surprise to the family and dads often experience the same feelings of grief and isolation that mothers feel. Dads want to be equal partners in the diagnostic, auditory and language learning intervention process and have the ability to bring important knowledge, skills and excitement to the LSL journey.
We asked dads to share their initial response to their child’s hearing loss and what they love to do with their children while making the most of listening and spoken language. Here’s what they had to say:
When we officially found out that our daughter Rose had hearing loss, I was very sad. I remember it in such detail. We were sitting in the audiologist's office in Idaho Falls while Rose was asleep in Lydia's arms and they were running the ABR test. Once the test was complete, she immediately confirmed the loss and explained to us about what level our daughter was hearing at. The audiologist then played us a simulation of what Rose was hearing, and I had an instant pain in my heart. To know that everything was going to be harder for her killed me. I really didn't know anything about hearing aids, but I was glad there was a solution. I just felt terribly that this was something she was going to have to deal with her entire life.
Since becoming familiar with her technology and receiving support from friends, her doctors, and the infant/toddler program, I now know that Rose's hearing loss does not have to slow her down.
Lately, we have started playing board games with Rose. She just turned two, and she loves to play Zingo! She calls out the pictures and words that she needs to fill her board, and it is so fun to see her speaking her words to play (and often win) the game! She is interested in learning new words and gets excited to imitate me. When we read books, she likes to point out and name objects and people in the pictures. We also look at a lot of photo albums and she loves to name every person in the photos. Rose is always very proud of herself when she does these things. And I am proud too - it makes me very happy to see her progress.
I felt numb when we learned that Forest and then Cameron had hearing loss. When Forest was diagnosed, I was so surprised, as I had been reading French to him and he was able to pronounce all the right sounds. When we received the diagnosis that he had moderate hearing loss, I did not understand all the implications and I was sad for him. It was a confusing time and we were getting mixed messages from the audiologist who was not specifically trained for pediatric patients. And then there was the sticker shock on the hearing aids, learning insurance didn't cover them and that we would be on our own.
Thankfully both boys can do everything! We love to be outdoors; in the mountains, skiing, biking and backpacking. These activities require clear communication, whether we are teaching them a skill or making sure they are staying safe. With Bluetooth hearing aids, it’s hard to tell if they are listening to their surroundings or to music, so it can get frustrating. It’s also dangerous on the ski trails or on the road while biking. It takes a bit of extra patience to stop and really have the discussion on when it is appropriate to have the tunes on and when you need to have all your senses alert. I’ve always just thought of them as hearing kids because that’s just how they interact.
When our son was first diagnosed, he also had other health issues and was hospitalized at the time. My first reaction to finding out that my son had a profound hearing loss was a feeling of being overwhelmed and that I had no control. As a dad, you want to protect your kids, and I felt helpless at first. I poured my energy into the details of his health care - learning about his symptoms and educating myself as much as possible about every choice we had in his care. When it came time to choose a brand of cochlear implant, I made a detailed spreadsheet comparing the different companies and their products. Dads can't just sit around! I had to have something to do! It made me feel like I had some control.
We were so excited when our son was implanted and finally had access to sound. We tried to turn every daily routine into practice with listening and language. Mostly it was my wife that was around during the day, but we kept a special bucket of toys to encourage language so that when I got home I could reach into the bucket and whatever I pulled out for us to play with would reinforce what he had been practicing. Some of them are now fond memories of games we played.
One of my favorite things I learned to do from a friend of mine was to record my voice while I read books to my kids. It turned out to be amazing because Benjamin loved to sit in his crib and turn the pages of books while listening to the recorded stories. I felt like I could make a difference even when I was out of town or ready to go to bed myself.
Now that he's older, I just treat him like any other child. It's amazing to think we went from intensive therapy several days a week to just semi-annual checkups with our audiologist. I often forget he has hearing loss and we enjoy tickling and teasing each other.
Dads offer unique and exciting opportunities to integrate listening and spoken language into everything from daily routines to outdoor adventures. Thanks to all the dads who are working hard to make the LSL life a part of everything they do with their children by:
Are you ready to find your community of support for your LSL journey? Fill out your LSL Friend Finder profile in the Family Support Community and meet other dads or family members of children who are deaf or hard of hearing just like you!
Happy Father’s Day to the dads who are proving anything is possible for children with hearing loss!
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