What started out as a regular day in our house turned out to be a life-changing day instead.
Since they received so many services, and went to doctor's appointments so often in their early years, there was a lot of input and feedback on how to handle any situation that would arise with them. Everyone worked together to come up with a plan to help the girls as much as possible, and everyone relied on the knowledge of each other member of the team.
Being born so early and being a multiple meant that everyone was on the lookout for certain problems that may arise for the girls. One of those problems was hearing loss. Apparently, being born so early and being on a ventilator can cause hearing loss in babies. But the girls got their hearing checked quite often and it was never a problem. One problem that we did find, however, was that Twin A was having difficulty processing what was being said to her. Everyone agreed that she showed the signs of an auditory processing disorder, which meant that it was hard for her brain to make sense of what she was hearing.
From the time that the girls were in school, and even before that when they had services at the house, everyone tried to work around this processing issue and help Twin A learn anyway. Little by little she overcame her obstacles, though as they grew, it was clear that Twin B was overshadowing Twin A in certain areas. Twin A hit every milestone first, but Twin B was the one who would follow through on everything. It seemed as though Twin A just couldn't process information well enough to keep interest in anything, so she just had no motivation to keep going. But we found ways to work around that, learning that we needed to capture her attention first before speaking to her, and making sure that there were no other loud noises around that would make it more difficult for her to process what we were telling her. We just adapted, the way we have when any other challenges have presented themselves with any of my siblings.
Then a few weeks ago, when hearing tests were done at school (as they are annually), Twin A didn't pass. Twin B passed, but my other sister didn't pass hers either, so my mom made appointments with an audiologist through the school to get both girls checked. We knew that my sister was having a little trouble hearing, and didn't know what was going on there, but figured it would work itself out. Maybe she had an ear infection or something... there wouldn't be a huge problem, we were sure. But with Twin A, we didn't think there was a problem at all. She obviously just didn't understand the directions when taking the hearing test. You know, when you hear the beep, you put your hand in the air? Well clearly she wasn't able to process the directions so she didn't know what to do during the test, hence the failure.
So today, my mom took the girls to the audiologist. I couldn't go with them, as I was teaching a sign language lesson at the same time, but I figured that my mom would fill me in afterward. And sure enough, when I got home from the lesson, my mom and the girls were already back and my mom proceeded to fill me in. And that was when my life totally changed.
Twin A did fail her hearing test at school. She did fail the subsequent hearing test today. She did not have trouble processing the directions, because they used a hearing test that is used for infants which monitors brains waves when the baby isn't old enough to follow directions. Very simply put, my little sister could not hear.
The lowest volume that a typical person can hear something at is considered a 0 on the hearing scale that was used during the test. Twin A couldn't hear anything until the volume in her earphones hit 50. She couldn't have a regular conversation with the audiologist until the volume was around 65. That's a volume that, if used for a typical person, would blow your eardrums and make you rip the earphones from your head. But my little sister couldn't hear at a typical volume.
All this time, we've been thinking that my little sister couldn't process what we were telling her. Today, we found out that she couldn't hear anything we've been saying to her. She's been learning to lip read, and can hear when we speak really loudly. She listens to movies on her tablet at the highest volume because she can't hear it if it's any lower. The little words that she says incorrectly (we eat in the "diving" room for dinner) aren't a cute little kid mix-up, it's because she can't distinguish the "n" from the "v" when we say "dining" room. And we had absolutely no idea.
So now what? Well, now my mom takes her to the pediatrician tomorrow to get an official referral to an ENT. Then we bring her to the ENT where the process will be started to get her hearing aids for both ears. She's going to need hearing aids for the rest of her life. We don't know if her hearing loss will get any worse, but we know that it will never get better. It's a progressive, degenerative, irreversible condition. We'll just have to see where life takes us, and Twin A will need to get her hearing checked frequently so we can stay on top of this. And now Twin B is going to get her hearing checked as well so we have a baseline to monitor her hearing as well, because the same thing could potentially happen to her. We just don't know what the future holds.
While it's definitely going to take a lot of adjusting around here, we're so glad that we finally have an answer and a way to help my little sister. My mom asked me to start giving sign language lessons to all of my siblings, which will definitely help Twin A. She'll have the hearing aids before next school year (though we're not sure when exactly she'll get them). We can handle this. At least she'll finally have the help that she needs. Who knew?
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