Tackling Hearing Loss-Related Literacy Challenges Early

We are tackling hearing loss-related literacy issues head on by having Sonya learn to read early! Check out what we are doing and tips from hearing loss professionals on how to foster strong literacy skills at home and at school.

This past week, Sonya started to learn to read! Well, actually, she started learning her letters, but once a week moving forward she will work with Dana Selznick, education specialist at the Center for Hearing and Communication, to work on literacy skills.

Like other children with hearing loss, Sonya is susceptible to having difficulties in all areas of academic achievement, especially reading and mathematical concepts. According to Reading Rockets, a national literacy initiative, the effect of hearing loss on academic achievement is distressing:

  • Children with mild to moderate hearing losses, on average, achieve one to four grade levels lower than their peers with normal hearing, unless appropriate management occurs.
  • Children with severe to profound hearing loss usually achieve skills no higher than the third- or fourth-grade level, unless appropriate educational intervention occurs early.
  • The gap in academic achievement between children with normal hearing and those with hearing loss usually widens as they progress through school.

Thankfully, extra support for children with hearing loss can significantly improve these effects. Under Dana’s guidance, we will work to help Sonya learn to read hopefully before entering kindergarten.

Our first reading lesson involved identifying the letters of the alphabet, placing those letters on an “alphabet train,” and coordinating images and sounds with letters.

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Here is Dana teaching Sonya about the letter “B”. When asked what was pictured, Sonya responded confidently, “wine!” haha
In addition to learning letters and the alphabet, we spent a portion of the hour reading Elephant and Piggie books together. To Sonya’s delight, Dana has the plush Gerald the Elephant and Piggie set. Sonya held Piggie and I held Gerald as we acted out the story. It was a great way to integrate play, listening, speech and language along with reading. (I just bought the plush set for Sonya’s upcoming birthday, so we can reenact this at home too!)

We have been instructed to work on our letters and sounds every day at home. After our lesson, Dana gave us print outs of the letters we worked on. On Thursday, Sonya spent time coloring each letter. The next day, we played a game using the letters from the Melissa & Doug Magnetic Chalkboard. I presented Sonya with five letters and asked her which one makes the “b” sound, “a” sound, etc. Doing something different every day to keep it interesting is critical. I am perusing Pinterest for other ideas and will share them if helpful.

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Dana recently wrote a blog post for CHC’s “Back to School Buzz” on this topic, and suggested parents follow the below tips to foster strong literacy skills at home and at school:

Literacy learning tips for children with hearing loss according to Dana:

  • Nightly Reading – Encourage nightly reading at all age levels by establishing a reading routine and sticking to it. You’ll promote language skills while creating a special nightly experience. Be sure to discuss the book you’re reading to aid comprehension and point out words and images as you go along. Reading charts can keep track of your progress and help instill a love of reading.
  • New Vocabulary – Be sure to regularly introduce new stories so that your child encounters new sounds and vocabulary. Exposure to story lines encourages the use of new vocabulary that children may not encounter in their everyday language.
  • Book Recommendations – Dana recommends visiting the Scholastic website and searching titles by age group. For preschool and elementary students, She really likes the “If You Give” series by Laura Numeroff and the “Little Old Lady” series by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg. You can chose titles that focus on a letter sound that your child’s therapist is working on, such as “If You Give a Pig a Pancake” for the letter sound “p”. Having your child repeat back sentences and dialogue from the story fosters sequential memory.
  • Technology Considerations – It’s vitally important to make sure your child has maximum access to sound at home and in school. CHC’s Back-to-School Audiology Tips by pediatric audiologist Anita Stein-Meyers will help you and your child’s teacher identify and fix common problems that can occur with hearing technology.
  • Advocate at School – Reach out to teachers at the start of the school year to make sure they understand your child’s listening challenges in the classroom and take appropriate action.

We are so excited to begin this journey! We even bought Russian letters so that Sonya can do Russian reading work with her Russian-speaking nanny Nina!

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La La La Look!

This past Labor Day weekend, Sonya had a big leap in her speech. She can now make the “L” sound! I saw it emerge during speech therapy last week, but this weekend it became more and more consistent. This is a sound we have been working on for…I don’t know, years? Even before she was speaking, we would say to her “la la la look!” and would show her how we place our tongue at the top of our mouths to make the “L” sound.

On rainy weekends like this past one, we love to take Sonya to the Met and “la la look” at the paintings.

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Lately, Sonya asks TONS of questions constantly, and we try to get her to talk about what she is seeing in the artwork and how the figures in the painting or sculptures might be feeling and why. Her favorite sculpture of late is Adam by Tullio Lombardo, which is hidden in a room on the first floor away from the crowds. We showed Sonya how Adam had once broken into many thousands of pieces but the people at the museum put him back together like a puzzle! She also loves the story of Adam and Eve and the snake – though she might decide to just start pretending to be a puppy at any given moment. That’s three! 🙂


Sonya’s favorite activity at the Met, however, is sitting in the American Wing Cafe and enjoying some popcorn, while admiring the sculptures that surround us. We love living in New York City!

P.S. When I see painting “The Penitent Magdalene” by George de la Tour, I can’t help but want to reach out and grab the items that lay on the ground near her feet. They look just like Sonya’s CIs! Obviously, I need help at this point…

Met painting and CIs

 

 

Sonya Curses (But Clearly!)

After a long day of speech therapy, the playground, and an annual checkup at Sonya’s pediatrician, Sonya threw off her CIs. They landed in the middle of a very busy West End Avenue. “Dammit!” I shouted as I strapped Sonya into her stroller, locked the brakes and proceeded to run into the street before a car nearly ran over her thirty thousand dollar equipment.

As I returned to the sidewalk, a nanny watching nearby with her own stroller, shook her head at me. At first I thought it was a sympathetic shake as in, “I can’t believe that just happened to you! Toddlers!” shake. But when we crossed paths as we walked back uptown, she shook her head again at me. Yep. It was a judgment shake. I had “exposed” my daughter and her own to blasphemous language.

Little does she know…

At home, it is often the case that…well… my speech is not exactly angelic. I find myself on swearing rampages when Sonya takes her CIs off. The frustration of dealing with a toddler, coupled with the frustration of ensuring that she wear her cochlear implants at all waking hours gets to me. I used to feel relieved that she couldn’t hear when the headband was off. That was, until I took the below video. Sonya is in her bed. She doesn’t want to nap and is crying. And then 15 seconds in…she says….

Apparently, her lip reading skills are not terrible.

A part of me feels very ashamed by this. Obviously, I have failed Sonya for her to use that word. I am sure many people will agree.

And yet, a part of me feels incredibly proud. The “f” and “k” sounds are not easy to produce. She is obviously hearing them well with her cochlear implants, and is producing them, which is actually incredible given that she was born deaf. Her speech has come a long way.

I wonder how many other parents out there can relate to this? When the CIs come off, do you find yourself blowing off steam by way of swearing? Is this really truly horrible? Or, is it actually good for you? A recent study points out that swearing is a “creative, emotional release that can make you feel stronger.” As a mom to a toddler who also is deaf, we have a lot on our plate and i.m.h.o swearing isn’t the worse way to release it.

That said, I do hope that I can teach Sonya alternate ways of expressing herself…this is not that flattering, really.

 

 

 

 

How to Tell People Your Child Has Hearing Loss (And How to Respond)

We sat around a circle in a colorful nursery school classroom. Our babies in front of us, propped up on pillows. Sonya was only three months old at the time. My breasts throbbed in pain as I had plugged ducts once again – but this was not a breastfeeding support group — as desperately as I wished it were. I can’t help but find the humor in that I just wished I were with a group of strangers talking about my breasts!

No, this was “group therapy” for new parents of babies with various degrees of hearing loss.

“Hi, I’m Missy,” I said, louder than intended. “This is my daughter Sonya. She is three months old. She is profoundly deaf.”

Profoundly deaf. How silly I was. As if the term deaf didn’t already imply profound hearing loss, but I was new to this.

As a new mom to a child with hearing loss, I struggled to describe my child’s condition. While my immediate family knew, Yan and I had yet to tell any friends or distant relatives. My greatest anxiety at the time was how do I tell people Sonya is deaf when I had trouble saying the word “deaf” without falling to pieces?

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We decided to tell people one-by-one, or not at all. This was emotionally very taxing. I didn’t feel it was something I could say by phone, so we just waited until an in-person meeting naturally arose, and then tried to play it casual (which in retrospect, was very very awkward.)

“Yeah, so Sonya is actually deaf.” I told my good friend who had come over for brunch. 

“Oh,” she said. Her face expressionless. 

“Yeah, we were really shocked. But we are looking into her getting cochlear implants, which are really amazing.” My eyes filled with tears but I grinned through it. 

“Yeah – she won’t even be deaf then.” 

The conversation moved on. And I was devastated by how cavalier my friend’s response was to our situation. But the fact was, I had put her on the spot. She had no idea how to react (how could she?) In another instance, we had the opposite reaction.

“Sonya can’t hear.” Yan told his friend. “She has a genetic mutation. It’s pretty interesting actually, she will probably get cochlear implants.”

“I’m so sorry. I just can’t get over the irony,” his friend replied. “Two people who love music so much….”

It was kinda like he had twisted the knife. But we just smiled politely and moved on.

Now, these were just a couple terrible responses. We also received many very kind and warm and empathetic words of support, which I hold dear to this day. I wanted to relay the above experiences because a friend of mine took the opposite approach when informing friends of her child’s hearing loss.

She simply sent a mass email.

Her email was short, optimistic, honest and explicit. She didn’t delve into her heartache or fear, but she she also didn’t pretend all was hunky dory. Rather, she let her friends and family know that while her child is doing very well and is a great joy to their lives, they were born with profound hearing loss.

I think sending an email is wonderful solution. I came up with the below template in case it is helpful for parents out there.

Dear family and friends. 

Sonya is a very special baby, and the birth announcement can’t possibly say it all. We feel so lucky and blessed to be her parents. Sonya was born with profound hearing loss. We want to give you time to adjust to the news so you won’t feel the need to have an immediate response. We would love for you to meet her. She is intelligent, beautiful, bubbly and full of curiosity. We are very optimistic for her future as she is a likely recipient for cochlear implants, which will afford her the ability to hear most everything. We are still gathering information, but will keep you apprised. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Love, Missy and Yan

And for those out there receiving the news that your friend’s child has hearing loss, here are some tips on what to say and what not to say:

What Not to Say 

“I’m sorry” Any statement that contains pity was not pleasant to receive and didn’t convey the feelings I had about my child at all. I felt blessed from the moment Sonya was born.

“It could be worse” statements felt like the challenges we were only starting to understand were being minimized.

“I think this happened to you because you can handle it.” or “God gives special children special parents.” Implies that my child’s situation is so awful only I would love and care for her. Also, trying to explain to a parent why God did something is rarely helpful.

What to Say

I think congratulating the new parents is the most important thing you can say – because they deserve to be congratulated.

Offer to help. If you know of someone who has cochlear implants already, offer to connect them. We were taking Sonya to multiple appointments a day for months after her birth – so meals, offering to babysit, etc. are great ways to respond.

“She looks just like you.” I loved it when people complimented Sonya’s looks or behavior. Still do 🙂

Acknowledge the grief the parents are feeling. “I know I can’t take the pain away, but I wish I could.” Or, “There will be challenges but the love and joy will be so intense you will not be able to imagine your life without this little girl!”

 

 

Do you have other ideas on how to discuss hearing loss that worked for you? I would love to hear about them!

 

 

Sonya Sings All the Time

In the mornings, as I push Sonya down West End Avenue in her stroller, Sonya sings. Loudly.  Sometimes she takes requests. Most of the time she sings to her own soundtrack, on repeat. It’s pretty cute. Strangers often smile as we pass. I love to sing too, so I sometimes try to accompany, to which she immediately protests. “Stop Mom! It’s my turn! Okay?”

During our walks, Sonya sings the ABCs, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Frère Jacque (en Français – pas mal!), Songs of her own invention and her favorite new song “The Orange Room class song.” The Orange Room is Sonya’s room at nursery school. She attends a mainstream two’s program at the Nursery School at Habonim.

 

The Orange Room is the place to be
We learn to count. One, two, three
Music, yoga, science too
Our school colors are orange and blue!
The Orange Room is the place to be
We’re as happy as happy can be!

I can’t help but feel this is pretty amazing progress considering Sonya was born deaf and has worn bilateral cochlear implants since she was eight months old.

According to AudiologyOnline, singing has positive effects in cognitive, linguistic, memory and music perception for kids with hearing loss. At the Center for Hearing and Communication, where Sonya receives her speech therapy services, we were encouraged to incorporate music into Sonya’s life from her earliest days with hearing aids. They even secured free classes with Music Together, which Sonya loved.

While Sonya often sings to express joy, she also turns to music when she is angry.  Her current ‘go-to’ angry song is one she wrote herself. It goes:

I don’t like
I don’t like
I don’t like
Mommy Missy!

As I often discuss on this blog, when we learned Sonya would need cochlear implants we were initially very concerned about what this would mean in terms of her appreciation of music. Now, Sonya hasn’t yet demonstrated tone or pitch accuracy. She often starts a song in one key and ends up in a different key. According to AudiologyOnline, most kids develop this skill by kindergarten, though these are skills that might be more difficult for someone using cochlear implants. Cochlear implants were developed to access speech. Music is more complex. But, clearly, there is much we don’t understand about electronic hearing. Despite the obstacles, Sonya loves to sing. She loves to dance. And for the time being, she seems to enjoy it as well as her friends who hear acoustically.

Sing it Sonya!

Speech Therapy – Then and Now

In my latest post I discuss the importance of speech therapy BEFORE Sonya could hear with CIs

When Sonya was just four months old, she began speech therapy at the Center for Hearing and Communication in New York City. At that time, Sonya was wearing hearing aids, but did not yet have cochlear implants (she wasn’t implanted until she was seven months old). While the hearing aids certainly stimulated Sonya’s auditory nerves, her hearing loss was so profound that they didn’t do much for her. Regardless, we continued to make that hour long schlep each way downtown so that she could receive speech therapy.

You might ask – what’s the point of speech therapy before a child can actually hear? Believe me, I asked myself (and our therapists) this same question. While the idea of a speech therapy session might seem ridiculous at such a young age, I learned and now can attest to the fact that the time spent at the CHC before Sonya could hear was critical. It accomplished the following (and I am sure more):

  • Helped lessen the trauma of the upcoming transition to sound. It acquainted Sonya to the therapists, toys and games that she would one day hear – thus easing a transition that otherwise could be quite traumatic. Sonya bonded with her therapists at an early age. We played with balls that chimed, airplanes that would one day be associated with the “ling” sound “aahh,” and toys that moved and played music. These were toys that were visually stimulating, and would interest her even further (without scaring her) the day her cochlear implants were activated.
  • Helped to increase Sonya’s attention span. Early speech therapy sessions also helped to prepare Sonya for the future “work” she would have to do. Focusing on a single activity for an extended period of time helped her increase her attention span, which would be critical for future speech therapy lessons.
  • Served as therapy for me too. At times, Sonya’s speech therapy sessions were really my therapy sessions. An opportunity to discuss my own fears and concerns as I processed Sonya’s hearing loss. Confiding to Sonya’s therapists, I sought advice from sleep training a child with hearing loss to how to inform relatives and friends that Sonya was born deaf.

It wasn’t an easy time to say the least. I talk a bit about what it was like to travel six hours a week with an infant in Manhattan here. It was taxing on Sonya too. She didn’t get on schedule as easily as other babies. We didn’t have as many playdates (if any those early months), which was hard on me as a new mom. But I am so grateful we did it.

Today, at two and five months, Sonya is thriving in speech and school. The below video was taken a month ago. Sonya will continue to do speech therapy throughout her school years. It’s still not easy, but seeing our efforts pay off is a huge motivation to keep it up.

Mapping Sonya’s Cochlear Implants

While I frequently discuss Sonya’s cochlear implant mappings on the blog, I haven’t really shown you what they are like, with the exception of her initial mapping/activation.

A MAP is a program that optimizes a cochlear implant user’s access to sound. The audiologist connects Sonya’s processors to a computer. Sonya then hears a series of beeps and the audiologist measures her response.

As an infant, measuring this response was rather tricky. The audiologist might observe a change in eye movement, a head turn or Sonya might stop moving. All of these behaviors indicate that Sonya was hearing the sound. Upon seeing such behavior, the audiologist would light up a black box with a toy playing the drum (or something similar). This would condition Sonya to look at the box when she heard the sound. Thus, the audiologist was able to get a sense as to which sounds Sonya could and could not hear.

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An example of a sound booth where audiologists will screen for hearing loss

Now that Sonya is two, her mappings are a bit different. When Sonya hears a sound, she puts a coin in a piggy bank. She is still working on this skill, but it is a much easier/accurate way to determine whether or not she hears the sound.

First the audiologist sends the sound directly to Sonya’s processors. We don’t hear it. Only she does. Then, the audiologist turns her processors on to detect noises in her environment. In the videos below, you can watch Sonya listen to the sounds through her processors at first – putting a coin in a pig each time she hears the sound. Then, she will repeat sounds, which shows us that she is hearing the sounds in her environment as well. The sounds that Sonya is asked to repeat are called “Ling Sounds”. Ling Sounds are different sounds which vary from high to low pitch. They are considered the range of speech sounds needed to acquire language.

Here is part 1 of Sonya’s latest mapping:

Here is part 2:

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Sonya’s speech therapists use the below Ling sound symbols when working with Sonya . When Sonya is presented with an airplane, for instance, she knows to make the “ah” sound. It’s another way to make sure she is receiving the auditory input necessary to speak.

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How Does a Cochlear Implant Sound vs Normal Hearing? Barb Cole Shares Her Perspective

Our daughter Sonya was born deaf but with the help of cochlear implants, she now hears most everything we do, albeit differently. Unlike hearing aids, which amplify sound, cochlear implants bypass the damaged area of the ear, and stimulate the auditory nerve directly, using electrodes. The signals produced by the electrodes are then recognized as sounds by the brain. Since Sonya is only 22 months, she unfortunately can’t describe what it is like to hear with cochlear implants.

My family’s friend Barb Cole, however, can! Barb suffered from degenerative hearing loss, and received a cochlear implant in her retirement. In the following post, Barb shares her difficult yet fascinating story:

My Cochlear Hybrid Implant Story
By Barb Cole

In the beginning, I did not realize I had a hearing loss until a colleague told me I was talking very loudly on the phone. I was only in my mid 30s, but found the need to gradually increase the phone’s volume at work, so I could hear my clients.  I probably had hearing issues prior to this intervention and was not aware of them. I saw a doctor, who told me my hearing was borderline and that at this time I did not need hearing aids. 

Ten years later, I decided to get my masters in special education. I finally got hearing aids in order to work with my students (children are more difficult to hear than adults for me). For the next 15 years I taught special needs students. I loved it, but my hearing was declining and I needed to make a career decision for my students and for myself – and so I retired.

At that time, I had received new hearing aids, but they were not really helping, so I looked into cochlear implants. Unfortunately, I was told I would not qualify for the devices, because I still had some hearing. My hearing loss was mostly in the high frequency range. I became depressed and frustrated. I could not understand my grandchildren or people on the phone. My hearing difficulties affected my speech. I struggled with pronouncing words correctly – especially multi-syllable words. I needed help going into stores, seeing doctors and talking with friends, It was very disturbing and humiliating.

When we moved from Minneapolis to Chicago my life changed! My new doctor said I qualified for a Cochlear Hybrid Implant. I would be his second patient and I would participate in a Cochlear study. He was so positive and understanding. I had my operation in November 2015, which went very well (but recovery was very painful). I was connected with my processor in December. I feel like I am traveling a very long journey. The doctor says it can take up to two years to heal.

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Barb’s new cochlear implant

My brain needs to re-learn how to hear, so working with the audiologist has been extremely important. There were some misunderstandings during post-activation, because I was so used to writing everything down. I needed time to process information before I could understand it. My brain is not used to hearing, processing, and understanding at the same time. It turned out to be an adjustment for the audiologist too – I kept trying to slow her down and repeat important information. 

As my brain was trying to connect with my implant, I would hear loud chirping sounds – which is normal. This is the brain’s reaction to the new range of high frequency sounds (such as a child’s squeal or a police siren) that I am now able to hear. As the audiologist programs my processor, my range of sounds have been expanding – this is done slowly. The chirping sounds are annoying, but as the brain adjusts then they begin to fade – until new sounds are introduced. The radio, tv, and other electronic devices tend to have high frequencies, which causes more chirping sounds.   

My brain is still learning to work with my implant. I do two hours of hearing homework a day – it’s exhausting. Homework includes listening to audio books and following along with the printed books. I do hearing games and exercises on my iPad and computer. My husband reads to me and I read to him. I listen to the TV, radio, etc., with captions, as I need to hear different sound sources in order to make the connection in my brain. 

Over the last six months, there has been much testing and adjusting. This past June was my six-month post-activation check-up. I received the best news. My hearing is now in the normal range (at the bottom but in the normal range) under perfect conditions. The chirping sounds had lessened, which meant my brain had successfully adjusted to the frequency range. The audiologist then expanded the frequency range enabling me to hear more sounds. 

One of the hardest adjustments has been dealing with people. I still need people to look at me, talk a little slower and clearly, so that I can hear and understand them. Loudness is an issue. While, I can adjust my devices for volume, when people talk too loudly the sounds I hear are distorted. I have thus lowered the volume of the TV – a big improvement. It is a bit easier to listen on the phone, but there are many variables: articulation, fluency, distortions, pitch, accents, and background noises. My pronunciation has greatly improved, however. I can now hear the difference in how I pronounce words and the correct way they should be pronounced.

Overall, I am glad I have the implant/processor, but it is a huge commitment and adjustment. Today I can hear birds and insects – even other people’s conversations!

Thank you, Barb!! 

Peppa Pig Saves the Day

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For weeks we struggled with Sonya’s persistent desire to remove her CIs. Nothing seemed to work. Nothing, that is, until in desperation we turned on our computer and let her watch Peppa Pig on YouTube. Sonya was immediately transfixed. Maybe it was the bright colors, the cheeky anthropomorphic animals, or the simple drawings. It might have had to do with the fact that one of Sonya’s first toys was a stuffed Peppa Pig doll. Whatever it was, Sonya wanted to hear this show. She pointed to her ears and sat still so that I could put her processors behind them.

This approach has worked 100 percent of the time. Even better is the fact that she is taking her processors off less often.

Our speech therapists have rallied behind this development. We incorporate Peppa and her family into speech therapy. Using a Melissa & Doug Wooden Doorbell House, we place a member of Peppa’s family inside each of the four doors. From there, Sonya must say “Hi Peppa Pig” or “Hi Mummy Pig,” etc.

Though I am happy we found a solution, I was initially disappointed to find that videos were the key to keeping Sonya’s processors on. I felt like in some way I had failed her. That I was taking the easy way out. I didn’t even want to admit to it on this blog. I worry that I may have opened Pandora’s Box. Perhaps Sonya will realize that I have no Plan B and will simply take her CIs off whenever she is in the mood to just zone out and watch TV.

While we are not a family that has forbidden screen time, we have tried to limit it. We allow Sonya to watch TV for about 15 minutes in the morning before breakfast and when we are driving to therapy and back. I am trying to phase out mindless videos and focus on interactive iPad games such as Daniel Tiger, Peek-a-Boo Barn, Toddler JukeBox, and My Very Hungry Caterpillar instead. I think that most everything in moderation is okay, and that some screen time that serves a purpose is okay.

But I have decided to be less harsh on myself. I’ll cross the above bridge if/when I get to it. For now, the importance of her being connected to the world of sound outweighs the potential negative side-effects. Including the fact that the theme songs to Peppa Pig seems to be burned in my brain.

On the other hand, how adorable would it be if Sonya learned to speak with a British accent?!

Suffering from Music Loss

This post follows an earlier post On Music in which I discuss how we are approaching music education for Sonya.

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Sonya points to her ears when she hears Yan practice piano. “Ee!” she says, meaning “I hear it!”

This afternoon as Sonya napped, I did something I hadn’t done in a long while, I listened to music for fun. As Radiohead’s Separator played, I concentrated on the first dense and complicated beat, which in its second half drops into a gorgeous guitar melody. It’s impossible to describe. I want you to listen to it. It suddenly hit me that Sonya may never love it as I do.* It might not be something I can share with her when she is older and it pains me to think that.

Music used to play an enormous role in my life. My dad plays the piano and guitar. To avoid having to clean up after dinner as a kid, I would sit in the rocking chair in our living room and listen to him play. I wanted to be like him so I took up the instrument too, and then, in high school, the guitar. In college, I continued to study classical piano, folk music, pop, alternative rock and (a bit embarrassed as I write this) underground/old school hip hop.

When I want to reminisce about the time I spent in France, I listen to Liszt’s Sonata in B Minor and De La Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising album. Scenes of my early days in New York City are forever coupled with the music of Bob Dylan, Rakim and Horowitz – playing Scriabin. For most of my life, I fell asleep and woke up to music.

This changed once I knew Sonya was deaf. When we incorporate music into our playtimes, we do so purposefully in order to help Sonya understand how to listen. For example, rather than just enjoy a song in the background, we play the song, dance to it, and then stop the music to help Sonya understand to listen for sound. Months ago, (to my naive delight) Sonya would dance to what I believe was music in her head. Now she knows that she must hear music aloud to dance. She will now point at the computer when she wants to hear it.

We also refrain from having music on in the background, as background noise can make it more difficult for people with hearing loss to perceive speech sounds.

I miss music but I also must remember that I don’t have a crystal ball. We don’t know whether Sonya will appreciate it when she is older. We don’t even know what she is hearing. She may hear the overall theme or rhythm, but she might miss the oftentimes subtle moments that make music so pleasurable.

For now, Sonya certainly appears to love it. Whenever Yan has a moment to practice piano, Sonya runs to living room pointing to her ears and shouting “EE!” her sign for “I hear it!”

*I do realize this might be the case regardless of Sonya’s hearing loss. Yan also hates Radiohead 🙂