One day last week, Adith did not attend school. Being at home all day easily translates to watching more TV in our house so there he was, perched upon the sofa in his usual position and watching ‘Monster Trucks’ getting painted in different colors for the umpteenth time. There are no human characters, no conversations – just trucks getting painted and cruising around! It is the silliest video ever, but he adores it for some reason! It baffles me why he wants to watch this when he has unlimited options to choose from as it is a Smart TV with Youtube!
The TV is in the living room, which also houses Nivedh’s swing. Since he appeared sleepy, I put him in the swing and watched him slowly drift away to sleep. Just as I ensured he was asleep and attempted to pull away, I heard the faint sound of the garbage truck outside, slowly making its way to the bin near our apartment. Uh Oh, I thought. Sounds as these is what every parent dreads when their kids have just begun to nap! I dearly hoped he would continue to sleep, but no – he woke up, startled, his eyes wide open and the very next moment, was sitting upright in the swing! By now, the sound of the garbage truck was familiar to him and he pointed to the balcony with his fingers and babbled something. The truck was going to make the loud dumping sounds soon so there was no point lulling him back to sleep. I took him out of the swing. If he could, he would have jumped out of my hands and ran to the balcony himself but since he couldn’t, he was bouncing in my arms and motioning to be taken to the balcony.
The TV was already in a low volume since Nivedh was about to nap. The sound of the garbage truck was loud and clear by now but Adith did not budge. It is typical for even hearing children not to notice sounds in their surroundings while watching TV so I called him for his attention and asked him to listen for any sounds. He tilted his head, made an expression of listening hard and announced, “I don’t hear anything, what is it?”. When I said it is the garbage truck, he said “Oh” and then noticing that Nivedh was up, asked “Nivedh is not sleeping now, can I have more volume for the TV?” I nodded in agreement and he increased the volume. Now, there was more sound to the multi colored trucks performing the stunts and Adith gave a smile of satisfaction. In the balcony, I watched the Garbage truck dutifully pick up the trash and thought about Adith’s reaction. The garbage truck did not stand a chance of winning his attention while the TV was turned on!
What amused me was that while Nivedh who was almost asleep alerted to that faint sound, Adith had difficulty hearing it in spite of me calling for his attention. I realized how powerful our hearing is! A person with normal hearing can’t help hearing sounds! It happens so effortlessly! Whereas we need to direct our eyes towards an object to see it, we automatically hear sounds all around us, even while concentrating on something else, making our sense of hearing a truly incredible one! And this is why even a mild loss of hearing has such a profound impact in a person’s life. Missing bits and pieces of a conversation is frustrating for the listener and also for others who have to speak louder/ repeat sentences for the one in need. Even when it happens due to old age, it is very hard because a change in how we hear equals a change in how we experience life. But then, when it happens in old age, it does not pose a risk to the development of speech, it only impacts the social life (which itself is highly annoying) .
How we hear is something we have learned long back in school. Here is an excellent visual representation of the same if you would like to see! As you watch the sound waves enter the ear, pass through the middle ear and puts the hair cells of the cochlea in motion thereby stimulating the auditory nerves which in turn sends electrical signals to the brain, you realize how amazingly complex the whole process is! And that is probably why no hearing aid can actually render the exact sense of hearing. What the brain does, no device can replicate! It is an awesome video, do watch!
Video courtesy: MED-EL
Adith has sensorineural hearing loss, which means the hair cells of the cochlea are weak and fail to stimulate the auditory nerves as required. And as of now, there are no known methods to restore healthy functioning of the hair cells. But there is a lot of research happening in this area, so one day they might find a cure!
It is indeed something not to be able to hear the leaves rustle and the ocean in a shell, but meager in comparison to not being able to see the ocean itself. Adith has to experience many things a little differently, but that is okay. There are more and greater things that he does experience just like us and that calls for cheers!
** I would love to hear your thoughts! Please leave a comment if you could!**