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Welcome To My World, Mom

“Do not insult the deaf or cause the blind to stumble. You must fear your God; I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:14, NLT)

“English is my second language, I have no first.” quote from me, Steve Pettijohn.

Unless you were you had a hearing loss or deafness from a very young age, yet born to hearing parents; this may not fully make sense.

The relationship between my mom and I has taken a strange turn in the last few months. I know they say it’s common for a parent and child to change places, but this is different. My mom has entered my world.

Brief history. One of my first memories was sitting in a chair getting my hearing tested. When they found that I could hear the beeps well, they tested my IQ. When they found my IQ was good, well… they didn’t know what to do with me. So they sent me through lots and lots of speech therapy. In the 1950s and 60s no one knew what was going on. But because I can hear beeps, I made it through 14 years in the military. It was eleven years ago or so, I was finally told I have an audio processing problem.

Now fast forward. In August 2014, my mom went from a mild hearing loss to deaf in just a few days. And of course she was greatly bothered by this, and scared. She said she thought she understood hearing loss, now realized that she never had a clue.

Now I find myself in an odd role of leading my mom through ‘the world of not-hearing’. She would say this and that, and I would answer back, “I know Mom. That’s normal.” She complains that nothing sounds right. She has a difficult time understanding people. So I sent her an address to what I wrote in to help her out. Afterwards we had this conversation:

Mom: “I don’t know if I can learn to do what you do.” Me: “You can do it Mom.” Mom: “I don’t know, I’m a lot older than you.” Me: “I know you’re older than me. You’re my Mom.” (If we were the same age, THAT would be weird.) Mom: “Everything sounds the same to me.” Me: “Yea to me too. Like B, D, E, and even the beginning of ‘October’ and ‘awful’ sounds the same. I also have trouble with ‘pen’ and ‘pin’ and many other words. Now you see why I had so much trouble learning to spell. You can’t sound out the words if they all sound the same.” Mom: “Oh yeah.” (I can’t believe it. NOW she understands after, what? 50 years?)

As time goes on, my mom is going to learn a lot about my world.

I know from being with others who have grown up with a hearing loss, my experience is very typical.

So now what? I have never thought of myself as disabled because of my hearing loss, and I still don’t. My mom is experiencing a great drop in audio volume. Once she gets her cochlear implant the volume will be high again, however because of the implant her audio processing ability be different than ever before. At that time her hearing will most likely be much better than mine again, but because of her new audio processing difficulties she may need me to help her adjust to her new world. The world I have lived in for nearly 60 years.

Could I be of help? I don’t know. To me this so strange because in my mind, I am not disabled from hearing loss.

I do know one thing. I am totally in awe of how God created such amazing hearing. Normal hearing can listen to music and pick out a single instrument and tell what it is. I never could. Even when I watch the worship team play, it is rare that I detect any one instrument. I am amazed at what some people can hear sometimes. We are awesomely created.

Steve can be reached via email.

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