by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

The following is part of the reply Christa sent to my LVAS group. It was in reply to a mother’s question about her young son who is now deaf in one ear from the results of Large Vestibular Aqueduct Syndrome (LVAS). (If you want to learn more about LVAS or join this wonderful group, click on Large Vestibular Aqueduct Syndrome (LVAS).)

The information in Christa’s reply fits not only those with LVAS, but any child with a severe or worse hearing loss in one ear. In fact, much of what Christa says also applies to any hard of hearing child, not just children with hearing losses in one ear.

Here is her excellent summary of what it is like to live with only one working ear.

If your son is now deaf in his right ear, that means he no longer has directional hearing, as this requires two working ears. (This is a subject close to my heart, as I was deaf in one ear all my life.)

  • He can’t hear direction, so when you call him, don’t just call him and say, “Come here.” He can’t tell where you are, no matter how hard he tries. Instead, you need to tell him where you are. For example, “Parker, please come here, I’m in the kitchen.” I used to feel really bad as a child because my parents thought I was being naughty when actually I had no idea which way to go.
  • It is best to avoid games of being blindfolded or closing eyes, as again, he can’t hear direction. As a result, you are setting him up for failure if he plays games such as “Blind Man’s Buff” or “Marco Polo” (or whatever the version is in your country).
  • When he is old enough for school, make sure he is placed where he can see the teacher all the time. Hearing aids just don’t give perfect hearing, and he won’t hear anything behind his back. Also, make sure that his teachers know that he cannot follow group discussions, as he can’t figure out which person to turn towards before they have finished speaking.
  • He can’t focus on one sound over another. A person with normal hearing can focus on a conversation, even if there are other conversations or background noise around. A person without directional hearing just can’t do this. Therefore, minimize background noise wherever it is possible in the home and places you visit. For example, turn off the TV and radio when he is not directly listening to them.
  • Get the family to speak one at a time. If he has older siblings who find this hard to remember, get an object (like a wooden spoon) and, at the family dinner table, only the person with the wooden spoon can speak. If two or more people speak at once, you are effectively (deliberately or not) excluding your son from the family conversation. Unfortunately, this is really, really hard for people not used to it. My own original family can’t speak one at a time, even though my mom was an audiologist and my dad himself wears a hearing aid. I just sat there and got a glazed look on my face after a while.
  • A lot of social interactions and rules are normally picked up by overhearing what people around you say. However, I missed out on a lot of this and your son might too. So, if he seems socially awkward, try some role playing in private, acting out what to do in certain situations. Don’t assume he knows how to say hello, goodbye, how to excuse himself or how to introduce himself to others and start a conversation. I never realized how much kids learn by overhearing until I had one of my own. (My girls are now aged 5 and 3). Carmel had better social skills at 4 years old than I had at 25 years old!
  • Be aware that your son cannot hear what direction things are coming from. I know he is too young right now, but when he gets old enough to cross the road by himself, he has to be extra careful about checking visually for traffic, and only crossing with the lights etc, as he cannot hear which direction a vehicle is coming from and, indeed, may not hear it at all until it has passed, if it is coming from his deaf side. Also clue him in to watch for reversing lights in shopping center parking lots and not walk behind those vehicles.

Thanks for the excellent advice Christa!