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I Am the “Significant Other” of Hearing Loss Victims

I’m often asked “Did you go into Audiology because of your kids?” The answer is always “no”. I was an Audiologist before I met my husband, married and had kids.

A little background as to why I get asked that so often…I am married to a man with hearing loss that was discovered when he was in elementary school.

I tease him that “I should have known!” when we met when I didn’t have to explain what I did for a living (few people know what an Audiologist does). We married, five years later had our first child and all was well. Our son had one ear that was smaller than the other, but he passed his newborn hearing screening so not much was thought of it by us or his pediatrician. He developed speech and language normally. We found ourselves pregnant again approximately one year later. During ultrasound testing it was found the baby had no kidneys and would not survive. Genetic testing ensued. We discovered my husband carries a rare genetic disorder called Branchio-Oto-Renal syndrome (BOR). It can include problems with the kidneys, branchial arches in the neck, ear development and hearing. It explained our oldest sons “little ear” and the hearing loss my husband had. Six months later, we were pregnant again. Followed closely by our doctors, all seemed to look fine. Our youngest son was born and it was immediately noted he had, in effect, no ears. He has bilateral microtia and atresia (abnormal outer ears and no ear canals on either side—for more of his story you can read “My Baby Needs a Hearing Aid). He was fit with a bone conduction hearing within weeks.

Shortly thereafter it was noted that our oldest son was not responding as well to our voices. He was tested and found to have a mild hearing loss in one ear and a moderate hearing loss in the other. He was fit with hearing aids at the age of two and half. So, life has just been one of those coincidences when it came to my family, hearing loss and my being an audiologist.

Has my family benefited from me being an audiologist? Yes. Does it change the day to day struggles of living with someone who is hearing impaired because I am an audiologist? No.

So why this story…It’s not a sob story, it’s not to garner sympathy, it’s to let you know that I understand a little of what you, the significant others, are going through. We must remember all those basic “rules” for communicating with the hearing impaired (see “Tips and Tricks for Communicating with the Hearing Impaired”) and trust me; sometimes even I forget the “rules” at home. Remembering to not talk from one room to another is the “rule” I break the most. I am told a lot by patients “He/She expects me to hear them from the other room”. I know is usually my response, because, I know and then it turns into counseling about expectations and those “rules” for everyone. : )

Just remember to encourage your loved ones to wear their hearing aids during those waking hours. It does make hearing easier, but we need to remember to help make it easier, for them AND for us, we must follow “the rules”. We all slip, even those of us that “should know better”. Don’t let it get you discouraged about your loved ones hearing, just remember you have to “retrain your brain” too. If we approach it as a team effort, the end result is much more positive.

Best of luck!

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Dr. Angela Schenk, Gardner Audiologist

Dr. Angela Schenk, Gardner Audiologist

Doctor of Audiology from A.T. Still University