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(NL-0011) Family History

Posted Mar 11 2009 12:00am

This is a long post and, as the title implies, is about my family history of hearing loss.

In my first post, I mentioned that I have Waardenburg syndrome (WS).  This is a genetic disorder, and is passed down from parent to child much like hair color, blood type, or other physical traits.

The first documented instance of hearing loss in our family, as far as I know, would be that of my Dad.  I was found to have a substantial hearing loss about the 7th grade.  Later, my older Sister was confirmed to have the same type of loss.  In each case, we all could hear fairly well in our youth, but our hearing degenerated over the years.  However, I seem to have the good ears in the family, as my hearing days lasted a lot longer than my Dad or my older sister.  I know that my Dad was pretty hard of hearing in high school.

By the way, my Dad is a Master Woodwright, and makes all kinds of things. Although a simple country gentleman at heart, he's also wise and well educated, holding degrees in Mathematics, Agriculture, and Electronics. He holds the top class license for wastewater treatment science. A jack of all trades as well as a master of many.  (Like my father, I seem to have had the same drive to excel in science as I hold four different engineering degrees, a degree in mathematics, and a degree in management). 

Here Dad is making some water bucket hoops  - on the right: some wood working tools he hand crafted in his blacksmith forge.

I can vividly remember tugging on my Dad's pant leg to get his attention when I was just 4 years old (for the record, I'm now 46 and I'll be discreet enough not to tell the world how young my Dad is, but I know that yesterday morning he was out plowing with the tractor and planting a full field of corn. He still walks the entire golf course several times a week and scores in the 80's, he also probably split some wood for the fireplace or made some metal woodworking tools in his forge. That's a typical day for him ).  

The above memory of me tugging at my dad's pants comes back to me whenever my little boy starts poking at my legs in order to get my attention.  And I just have to smile when he does that as it brings so many good memories back to me of the times I spent with my Dad. 

I grew up with my Dad not being able to hear me, so I never really had to think twice about what it meant for him to be deaf.  I am sure, that as a toddler, that I had no concept of this at all. All I knew is that he was my Daddy and he loved me and he always had something fun to show me or to teach me and I loved him.  What else could a boy want from his father?

When my son was two years old, my wife explained to him that daddy could not hear very well and that my son needed to make sure to look at me when he talked.  Like most hearing folks he then tried to talk louder to me.  But my wife patiently explained that "Daddy still can't hear you"...  At the time she said this, I was holding my son.  He grabbed head, then yelled, one-half inch from my ear, "Ba Ba, I understand. Love you!" and planted a wet one on me!

Growing up, I never had any real problem talking with my dad and he never had any problem talking with me. He would read me a bed time story. We would chat as he was teaching me how to fish. And he thoroughly tanned my hide and chewed me out for setting Maw-Maw's chicken coop on fire (...and yes, I really did that -  gives a whole new dimension to the meaning of  "hot-chicken-wings", doesn't it?). 

Now I'm the Daddy and my little boy is the mirror of me (but a much more handsome mirror).

I have never asked or talked to my Dad about this next part, and before my son was born, I never even though about it.  But I now realize that maybe, because he could once hear very well,  it must have been terribly difficult, very difficult indeed, for my loving caring father to watch me grow up without being able to hear me play a musical instrument in the marching band, never able hear me sing a song in the high school chorus, and never has he heard my great impression of Dean Martin (well, he would want to skip that last one, I'm sure).  

Mind you, I have never in my life felt slighted that he was unable to hear me play music, sing, or chat. I never considered it at all until I became a father myself.  My Dad was there for me and that's all I needed or wanted. For that, I am always grateful. 

However, part of my reasons for wanting the hearing implant (CI) is so that I can talk with my son in his Mother's native Chinese language (he will  learn proper English too) and so that I can teach him how to play music. I want to hear him sing all those lovely children's songs, and, I might add, I want to be completely silly and sing along with him.  I want to teach him how to croon like Dino and talk like Goofy.

At this time my son has perfect hearing. The day after he was born I requested that his hearing be checked and verified.  This was done and I was allowed to watch the procedure.  I would urge any new parent to have this same test done on their child at birth, it can give you a huge head start if there is an issue. This service may or may not be offered where you live. In California, where my son was born, it is strongly suggested by hospital staff (although, obviously, I didn't wait for them to suggest it).

My little guy looked so cute in his headphones and electrodes (I think only a true engineer can say that and really mean it!)  

Obviously the left side of the below image is my boy!  The right side of the image is a close up of the computer test screen.  It says "PASS" for right and left ears. There is also some detailed results from the tests; it shows that he can hear just fine.

While I don't think he will ever set the chicken coop on fire, I am concerned that one day his hearing might not continue to be the best.  And as he grows up, we will keep close tabs on his hearing.  Three years on; so far, so good.  

Shameless plug :  At 3 years old, he can speak both Chinese and English, and he can play the electronic keyboard.  His preschool class gave a show for the Chinese New-year.  Of course I'm the very, very proud 爸爸 (say: Ba Ba - that's Daddy in Chinese). Below : Practicing at home and playing in Chinese New year Presentation at his school.


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