Archive for April, 2010

The short answer to that question would be “every time his Dad passes gas within a 10 mile radius, but never reminders to do his chores.”

I’ve seen countless audiograms and tried to get a grasp on the intricacies of Hertz and Decibels, but to be honest much of it is still Greek to me. I wish someone could slip a magical set of headphones over my ears that would allow me to hear things as Jay does. As a mother, I want to understand my child better, and it would help me navigate that fine line between not letting him use his hearing impairment as an excuse to get out of trouble, and unfairly chastising him for things he honestly didn’t understand.

In the past I’ve struggled to explain Jay’s level of hearing loss to others. I think because he does so well, people don’t realize how significant of an impairment he has. Below is a graph I found that illustrates some of the sounds one would hear at specific decibels and frequencies (for example, a barking dog registers at about 65 decibels and 250Hz). I graphed Jay’s audiogram onto it, to give a layman’s perspective of what he can and can’t hear.

Decibels, or how loud something is, is represented vertically, with softer levels at the top. Frequencies are shown horizontally, with lower frequency sounds the left, and higher ones (like birds chirping) to the right. The top line is the map of Jay’s left ear, his better one. The bottom line is his right. Everything shaded above the top line represents sounds that he does not hear. Notice that the volume of normal conversation occurs between 30-40 decibels, which is out of his range.

Hearing aids amplify things tremendously, bringing Jay up into more of the speech banana (as audiologists call it), but that doesn’t mean that he hears speech clearly. The letters scattered throughout the chart show where certain speech sounds fall in the spectrum– not all letters are created equal. Jay still has a hard time hearing a lot of the softer sounds like -ch, -f, -s and -sh. I imagine that for him, listening to someone talk might sound like someone talking through a bad phone connection. Or watching t.v. with the volume just a little too low, so that words seem muffled. There are a lot of holes to be filled in, not to mention a lot of competing background noise that also gets amplified.

Looking at Jay’s audiogram makes me that much prouder of his achievements. Yesterday I attended his annual IEP (Individual Education Program) meeting at his school. Jay has always been mainstreamed and placed in classes alongside his peers, but also receives support from the teacher for the hearing impaired, Mrs. Maxwell, whom he meets with two and a half hours a week, along with speech therapy one hour a week. All the students with hearing impairments in our county attend Jay’s school, and we feel that it provides the best of both worlds for him, as I believe his IEP meeting proved.

Jay is currently reading above grade level, and performing above grade level expectations on standardized tests. Learning that would make any mother brag, but, as Mrs. Maxwell proudly told me, “Jay is doing things that kids with his level of hearing loss aren’t supposed to be able to do.” Typically, children with a hearing impairment struggle with reading and language arts because of their more limited vocabulary. Jay is doing so well that once again Mrs. Maxwell said that she feared the school board would cut support services for him, so she would really have to stress the importance of continued access to programs. I heartily agreed– I’ll take whatever help we can get to ensure his success!

I feel very fortunate. Jay is surrounded by an awesome staff at his school, and he is a smart, hard-working kid. We’re so lucky– a word I never thought I’d use to describe us five years ago, but an adjective I feel wholeheartedly today.

P.S I have no idea what that branch on the chart is supposed to mean, either. Talking leaves? I thought the wind in my tree was just a bad Patrick Swayze song. Yes, I said it. That song was BAD.

P.P.S.  Jay also receives support two hours a day from a wonderful interpreter named Miss Rita.  Holla!


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Even Ralph and Sam took a break at the end of the day.

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