Steven, my youngest kiddo, had a basketball game on Saturday and we headed over to the gym a few minutes before game time. The night before, he came up to me and said, "I don't want to go to the game, Mom."
So we sat down to talk about it.
Turns out, he becomes extremely nervous before the games. He's an excellent athlete, but the jumbling of nerves gets in the way of his playing skill. "I don't want to play basketball anymore," he declared.
My heart sank. I knew that he really loved to play because he was a totally different kid at the local YMCA, when playing for fun with his family. What was really going on? Could it be, I suspected, the difficulty with understanding what was being said during the game?
Steven has a moderate-to-severe hearing loss. He is able to use his voice well, which leads others to think that he can understand conversation at every level in every situation.
Let me share my experience. I teach a class in Conversational Sign Language at the local community college. A few weeks ago, we combined classes with another instructor and showed a video by Peter Cook. During the discussion afterwards, a question about varying types of hearing loss came up. I explained that I was completely deaf without my hearing aids but that my hearing aids gave me access to environmental sounds. I rely almost 100% on lipreading in conversations.
"But how can that be," asked one student. "You speak so well."
So I asked the student to say something to me while I turned around. "Eye Are a oyee ahin ee ah."
Turns out she said, "Hi Karen, thank you for teaching class."
The student had a speechless look on her face. Suddenly, she understood what things sounded like to me and how much information had to be delivered visually for communication.
I hear mostly vowels. Lipreading/speechreading gives me visual clues which I piece together with the sounds coming in and fill in the blanks by understanding the context of what is being said. You can read more about it here: Yo, I'm Deaf!
While Steven hears much better than I ever did while growing up, I suspected that he was losing his ability to discriminate words. I was right; a recent hearing test showed that his ability to understand words by hearing alone dropped to about 38 percent.
It was too late to grab an interpreter for Saturday's game so I talked with the coach. I explained about the drop in Steven's ability to comprehend speech. The coach shared that he was totally deaf in one ear, something that he didn't tell us before. So he took Steven aside and told him and Steven's face lit up. He suddenly had a connection with the coach that he didn't have before and it seemed to put him at ease a bit.
Yet, the jumble of nerves was still there as Steven started the game. I had to sit back and remind myself that he was kid, that perhaps this would be the same thing we'd face even if he had normal hearing. Sometimes it's hard to figure out the difference.
But anyway, let me brag. Steven's team won the game and he made one beautiful, swish shot from near the three-point line.
That's my boy.