The answer is a definite:YES! Envelope your children with sounds and they will respond. Our hearing-impaired daughter is talking because we read to her, talked to her and listen to music together. There is no other way!
I know that this was not the norm for most of the history of hearing loss. The parents of a deaf or hard of hearing child were advised to learn a form of Sign Language and forget about the frustrating and fruitless task of “talking to yourself”. It seems like that many days because we are:
the proud parents of a girl with moderately severe hearing impairment.
Now, for the English translation of all this: she can hear both my voice (high-pitched) and my husband’s voice (low pitch). However, she cannot understand the words I am saying because she has a malfunctioning cochlea. Also, she cannot hear the sound of running water or birds singing even with her hearing aids.
To understand our daily lessons ( she is home-schooled), she needs a quiet environment and the ability to read my lips at all times. Even then, we end up going to the “Vield Museum” instead of the Field Museum because of similarities between the lip formation of the letters “B” and “V”. It also involves LOTS of repetitions on my part and LOTS of frustrations for her.
We started reading to her when we brought her home from the hospital. The very first night, we put her to bed to the sound of Daddy reading “Good Night Moon”. It is still one of her favorites. We kept on reading. By the time she turned three, we were reading chapter books. Her favorites being: The Little House series, The Secret Garden and anything by Virginia Lee Burton or Dr. Seuss, The Magic School Bus…
Her speech development was a little slow: she did not seem interested in saying much more than what she needed to make herself understood. She would get very frustrated. So, I taught her about twenty different signs from Sign Language. She calmed down immediately and proudly used those signs. By the time she turned two, family and friends started to worry about her speech. I asked her pediatrician for input during one of her regular check-ups. He could not find anything wrong.
Several months later, she started talking in full sentences. Although, she had a little lisp.
We found out about her hearing loss after her sixth Birthday. We were at her cousin’s fifth Birthday Party. The house was full of laughter and the noise of wrapping paper being torn. She was playing happily, with a doll, in a midst of a sea made from ribbons, boxes and paper.
When asked to wash her hands for dinner, she did not respond or even acknowledge the presence of her Aunt standing few feet away from her. Finally, I took her to the bathroom and washed her hands.
On the way home, I asked her to be more attentive to other people’s needs and recalled the above incident. Her answer changed our lives forever:
“I am sorry, Mommy! I was so excited…I could not read her lips…”, she said.
“Why do you need to “read her lips”?”, I asked.
“Because I cannot hear. Duh!”, she said and went back to her toys.