A few weeks ago my father sent me a letter answering some questions about my early years when my hearing loss was discovered. I would not be where I am today if it wasn't for this early intervention in my hearing journey by my parents. Through their determination, strength, & perseverance they made sure I had every option available to me. I still had some questions about my early "deaf" history and since Mom isn't here to answer them for me (she lost her battle to pancreatic cancer in 1992) I sent my father an email with six questions for him to answer. I had planned to call him on the phone that evening to get his answers but by that afternoon he had written six pages and faxed them to me! (Dad doesn't use the computer but his wife does.) Mom was the biggest cheerleader for me and my brother (he has a severe hearing loss, too, but still wears hearing aids) and spent much time and research looking for the best options for us. She was also a teacher so it was only natural for her to "teach" us to talk and communicate and show us the world.
I spent many years in denial about my hearing loss and didn't want people to know about it. So, I did not want to talk about it and did not ask many questions. Now that I can hear with my cochlear implants and have so many connections with the deaf world, I realized that I had some "blanks" regarding my early years. I wanted to know what Mom and Dad felt and experienced when my hearing loss was discovered. I wanted to know what made them realize I couldn't hear. What clues did they have? How many times a week did I go to therapy before I started kindergarten? Etc, etc, etc. I will share some excerpts from Dad's letter. . .
My Recollections of Our Daughter's Early Hearing Problems by Edwin Royer
We thought Laurie was normal until she was about 2 years old in April 1959. Our friends had a child who was also 2 years old and had started talking and saying words. Laurie didn't verbalize at all. So, her mother took her to the family doctor and asked him "why Laurie wasn't talking."
He didn't know, but advised us to take her to the Children's Hospital in Buffalo, New York and have her tested for hearing loss.
The result by the hearing specialist was that Laurie had a severe hearing loss up to 85%. But, she could hear loud sounds, and had 10%-15% residual hearing. We were advised to have her begin hearing therapy immediately in May 1959 at age 25 months.
My wife took her to Buffalo Children's Hospital three times a week (M-W-F) for 30 minute sessions. It was determined that she could vocalize with instruction.
In June 1959 the State of New York purchased a chest type (body worn) bilateral hearing aid for Laurie and she made excellent progress through September 1959 when we moved to Columbus, Ohio for her Dad's new job and graduate school at Ohio State University. (My note: this was news to me. . . I did not know that the State of New York provided me with my first hearing aid. Mom & Dad were newlyweds in their mid-20's living on a small budget while my father was working on his master's and doctorate degrees. I'm sure they appreciated this service. My parents made many sacrifices over the years to afford the hearing needs for me and my brother and never once complained.)
In October 1959 we enrolled her in speech therapy at the Ohio State University Speech & Hearing Center on campus. My wife took her there three times a week for individual sessions.
(Re: How her mother and I felt when we found out in April-May 1959 that Laurie was "deaf.")
We were devastated and wondered how it could be that our daughter couldn't hear. There was no hereditary deafness on either side of the family that we knew of.
We were told that Laurie could go to a "deaf school" similar to Gallaudet where she could learn "sign language" and learn to communciate that way. But, given this choice usually meant that children sent there NEVER learned to talk and communicate normally. Given that Laurie had some residual hearing and responded to training and voice stimuli and was learning to "lip read" and speak words in a somewhat normal manner, we were told that with extensive effort and training that she could "possibly" learn to "hear" and "listen" and "speak" like normal children who weren't "deaf."
We decided to give the latter choice a try and that we would encourage her to "mainstream" in pre-school, kindergarten, & and regular school. (*It was the correct decision as we would later find out.*)