d o c t o r a n d m a m a

Linda Shiue

Linda Shiue
San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA
December 31
I am a physician and spend my free time with my husband and kids, reading everything in sight, eating, traveling, and cooking meals inspired by my travels. These days I'm spending more time at my food blog, spiceboxtravels.com. Please visit me there and follow me on Twitter @spiceboxtravels. Disclaimer: Health information presented here is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any medical questions or conditions. © 2010-12 Linda Shiue. All Rights Reserved.

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JULY 23, 2010 7:57AM

Hearing Lost, Confidence Found

Rate: 37 Flag

hearing aid 

How well can you hear? How well do you listen?

In casual conversation, we interchange those two words without much thought.  But the difference between them is meaningful. Hearing refers to the sense of perceiving sound, and is passive.  Listening is active, and refers to making an effort to hear, and understand, what somebody is saying.

Being a good listener is essential in all spheres of my life.  When I pick my kids up after school, the first thing they want is for me to listen to their stories, as they compete to tell me about their day.  In my job as a physician, I need to make every effort to be listen closely,  because the words a patient uses to describe her symptoms are clues to the diagnosis. Being a good listener also makes you a good friend.  (People think you're an excellent conversationalist if you listen closely, and let them do most of the talking.)  And being a good listener is the key to becoming a good storyteller.  I think anyone can write, if they listen well; the stories are out there, waiting to be heard, listened to, and retold. 
My daughter developed hearing loss around the time she started kindergarten.  When I first came to terms with her new diagnosis, it was such a powerful experience for me.  I was filled with uncertainty, sorrow and fear.  I cried.   And then I found my voice, which I very much needed to navigate and advocate for her through the maze of bureaucracy in the school system.  I also began writing.  I wrote about what that meant to me, and re-reading my thoughts now, I realize that all of my fears were about what my daughter would miss when she couldn't hear things.  What I did not know then, but do now, is that I shouldn't have worried so much about her hearing.  That's because she listens better than the average person.  

Between the time my daughter was diagnosed and before she got her hearing aids, my fears for her were simple and visceral.  I worried that she would not be able to hear a car approaching, and would be run over; that she would not hear a siren, and would be endangered; that she could not hear birdsong, and her life would lack beauty.  I was sad when she told me that she could not hear the secrets her friends whispered into her ear, the way that little girls do.  In the eighteen months that have passed since my daughter got her hearing aids, I can see that the aids help her hear better.  I also see many examples of how she is a better listener than most of us, with or without her hearing aids on. 

She started piano lessons a  year ago. At the first lesson, I mentioned to her teacher, casually, that my daughter wore hearing aids.  Immediately, her teacher started speaking more loudly and slowly.   I explained to her that she didn't need to speak more loudly, but simply with better enunciation. (Most of us should.)
Since then, my daughter has evolved into a fine musician (to me, at least.) I have always thought she has perfect pitch, since her early days of singing as a toddler-- and this is before we knew she had hearing loss.   While she is now working on playing pieces involving two hands playing different rhythms, learning to read both treble and bass clefs simultaneously, and learning about sharps and flats, picking out melodies by ear and memorizing them is effortless.  I realized that she was memorizing by ear, rather than by really reading the music, when she had some trouble playing small sections picked out by her teacher during lessons.  Besides the classical standards all piano novices are taught, she can pick out recognizable renditions of pop music, including favorites by the Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga, and Coldplay.
She has also started to learn Mandarin, a tonal language with subtleties in pronunciation that frustrate most non-native speakers, myself included. Her teacher can't believe how good her pronunciation is. 
I have been told (and complimented) by her teachers at school as well as her piano teacher that she "listens really well." Hearing those words fills my heart with pride, now.  Contrast that to a year or more ago, when that same phrase gave me a sinking feeling, because I had realized that when the audiologist said that to my daughter, it meant that she hadn't heard well on her test.
Faced with something which makes her visibly different-- her hearing aids-- my diffident daughter had two options: to try to conceal them, or to parade them.  She chose the latter, and has sublimated what I was afraid would keep her back into her pride and joy. She chose pink hearing aids with custom earmolds filled with pink and silver glitter.  As if those were not accessorized enough, she has also started making charms which she wears on her hearing aid tubes.  They look like dangly earrings and definitely get your attention.  Recently, for her class auction project at school, each child had to design a picture and story of a superhero based upon his or herself.  My daughter's avatar? She is a superhero who helps people with her super hearing abilities, and magical piano playing.  I don't have words to express how much joy I feel in her pride in what sets her apart.  She believes her superpower is her hearing, amplified by her hearing aids.  Her superpower is really her listening.
One year ago, I wouldn't have believed that my daughter's hearing loss was actually a gain.  But it is.  Learning to adapt to hearing loss gave my shy daughter confidence.  Learning to help her adapt to her hearing loss taught me about resilience and advocacy.


© 2010 Linda Shiue 

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Linda, you have an extraordinary daughter and you are an extraordinary mom. Thanks for starting my day with good news! And I would love for my piano-playing daughter to meet your piano-playing daughter - they both like pink, sparkly things.
Glad to hear your girl is rising beyond all expectation. She sounds like she is blossoming into quite the musician, Linda. She has a gift. You're right, her super power is her listening.

Boy, could the majority of us take a lesson from her!
What a beautiful story and an amazing child. I hope she can hear how impressed I am with her through the screen. No doubt, she can.
Linda, this is such a joyful piece. I am so happy for your wonderful daughter. And you..._r
Beautiful. I love delightful contraditions. Congrats on the EP!!!
Turning an impairment into a gift takes a good support system, of which you're an integral part, Linda. This post has value both from your perspective as a mother and a physician.
This post made me so happy. What a delightful new person. I love hearing about the good ones we're passing the baton off to. You are so proud. You have a great reason to be!
I know this to be true, when faced with challenges, strength within us awakens and we find our path, to our own surprise, we often experience positive results, and happiness with our own evolution. This was a touching story of strength. Thank you for sharing with us. R
I always enjoy reading your posts, but this was also inspiring. You and your daughter are influential people in your own ways.
What a beautiful distinction between hearing and listening--and so true. I have several elderly family members who are dealing with hearing loss, and I've been struck by how selective their hearing can be, depending on what they want to tune out.

Love your daughter's pink-glitter hearing aides -- ! Rated
Linda, this is a beautiful and moving post. Thank you for starting my day off filled with your loving motherhood, your amazing daughter's empowering transformation, and the reminder to listen.

I know your daughter is not and was never deaf, but in case you don't know this already, there are excellent deaf drummers - musicians that learnt to drum after deafness and despite deafness and rose to become respected musicians. I can't remember the name of the lady I watched in an inspiring dvd - reminded me not to automatically buy into limitations, and bravo to you for not letting your fears limit your daughter.
It's not just listening -- but choosing whom to listen to. It looks like you and your daughter share that talent.
I know your journey to this realization wasn't easy, but I'm glad you made it there. Your daughter sounds precious and wise beyond her years (ears).
thank you for sharing this very personal story, linda. i'm struck by the difference in the way your daughter approaches her hearing loss and its fix and the way most adults would. dangly earring charms on the hearing aid tubes are fabulous! and it sounds like she is, too.
You are an extraordinary mother. Your daughter is testament to that. And she is a peach of a kid with the sparkles! This parkie may just start wearing bells now! So inspiring...
Wow. Just wow. What a positive little life force you've got there!
Your daughter sparkles, and so do you. What a great daughter and what a great mom. Love the sparkly charms.
Among other things, Linda, your daughter's lucky in having a mom with perfect emotional pitch. I don't say that lightly, as I could have used some of that in raising my child, who grew up with a physical functioning problem.
What a story with a happy development. Often times listening is more important than hearing. Your daughter has an incourigable spirit and I'm sure there's a great mother behind every such youngster. Thank you for sharing this, Linda. R
My niece, now 45, lost her hearing as a child due to a bout with the measles. My sister refused to allow her to be treated as though she had a disability in school. My niece learned to sit near the front of the class and away from the walls so that sound would not be blocked. She never saw herself as different. Today she is an education advocate, on the board of education in her district in Arizona and the developer of a new program to help teachers work with the most challenged students.
"My daughter developed hearing loss around the time she started kindergarten. When I first came to terms with her new diagnosis, it was such a powerful experience for me. I was filled with uncertainty, sorrow and fear. I cried. And then I found my voice,"

A wonderful story of a daughter and mother. Inspirational and well-told, Linda!
Lovely, sensitive story. Your daughter sounds like a smart and powerful young woman who will surely do great things; I'm sure she gets a lot of her strength and smarts from you. All the best to you and your family!
another superpower that she has is to make her parents' hearts and ours soar...
Like you, my father cried when I was diagnosed with a hearing impairment and fitted with my first hearing aid. However, I didn't understand why he was crying. I was excited. Although I wasn't especially excited about the new things I could hear with the aid. The first new things I heard when the aid was turned on was the plumbing flushing inside the walls of the medical building and the overly loud locusts buzzing in the trees when I stepped outside the office. I found myself thinking, "Is this all I've been missing?"
I can only imagine the pride, Linda. I've never met her and am beaming. Ok, almost crying.
We are so busy trying to be understood we forget to understand, to hear.
Children can teach us all so much about facing adversity and developing copng skills. I love this story and I especially love her decision to flaunt her aids. She is no longer shy, Mom!

What a loving and inspiring story. I know there are great things in your daughter's future. Sometimes what we perceive as a handicap turns out to be a gift. Blessings and Peace. RRRR
I admire your support, love and pride….. but there is one aspect of this tale that I find troubling - I don't see any mention that the deaf and hard-of-hearing community has been included or considered as a component of your daughter's support system. I bring this up only because there is no mention of this issue in your post whatsoever. I am neither deaf nor hard of hearing, but I do have some background managing services and programs serving the deaf and hard of hearing population as well as individuals with nearly every range of disability.

While managing a residential program at Perkin's School just outside of Boston, I had the opportunity to work with some incredibly gifted and insightful behavioral psychologists as well as some very dedicated and experienced educators. While they did indeed sometimes have disagreements about educational methodology and practice, one thing that they were in tandem about was that any individual with a significant hearing loss should be given the opportunity to learn ASL (for those with little or no developmental delay) or Signed English (for those more severely developmentally delayed) as early in life as possible. By doing this the children had the opportunity to not only acquire an additional method of communication, they also became part of a community populated by individuals with issues similar to their own.
Thanks everyone, for your comments and support (and compliments).

Lucy, I think that would be a lot of fun.

Bonnie, very nice of you. Though the idea of beauty pageants is hysterical to me!

Scarlett, I may be exaggerating her talent, but this experience has been eye-opening to me.

cartouche, thanks!

Joan, thank you.

Sharon, there are so many contradictions in life! Thanks.

Kathy, I hope that's true. It's been a big learning experience.

greenheron, thanks!

Sheila, the experience has been very educational for me, and no doubt will continue to be for both/all of us in the family. Thanks.

Janelle, she (and her little sister, who, poor thing, doesn't get a mention here) are both inspiring to me in their own ways.

Martha- selective hearing loss- that can be a useful skill!

Maria, thanks for sharing the information about the drummers. I will tell her about them.

geezerchick- thanks!

bellwether- it's true, and nice pun

femme forte- the acceptance was far from immediate or easy for either of us, but I am so glad how things have turned out.

Linda- thanks. We're not really extraordinary, except in the sense of being very ordinary :)

Jeanette- thanks! I am very proud of her.
ladyslipper: thanks!

Leon: you overestimate my equanimity. But I have come a long way.

Lisa, thanks for the very kind comment.

Fusun, thanks!

Donna, thanks for sharing your niece's inspirational story. After much advocating on my part, I have a grerat support network for her at school,and I know she has it a lot than your niece would have years ago. We are lucky.

Grace, thanks. Your recent post about school volunteering reminded me that I wanted to write about this.

Felicia, thank you.

Catherine, thanks!
JoLynne, thanks for sharing your personal experience. My daughter first noticed "the air" (ventilation in the clinic) and the sound of footsteps on the sidewalk, all with a look of wonder and amazement... and joy. And as parents, we tend to jump to the worst case scenario for everything, at least I do. Trying not to.

Amanda, thanks for the sweet comment.

Lezlie- I know, I have to stop thinking of her as shy! She has taught me a lot.

Bernadine- that is true wisdom.
artsfish- I appreciate your constructive comment. You make good points. I couldn't include everything in this post, but yes, both have been included and addressed.
Linda - You're fortunate enough to live near and around one of the most intellectual, vibrant deaf communities in the country. Have you made any attempt at integrating your daughter into the deaf communities there, or introducing her to successful, highly educated deaf lawyers, business people, and educators? It would be good for her to realize that she's not alone, and that deafness is never a determent to success in life.
This is beautiful Linda! You gave her wings and she will soar to great heights with her sparkly ears!
this is such a good thing, she is really quite adaptable. i made decals to block the vision for one eye, so that the other eye could get exercise, for a young girl. we made a new decal every week, squirrel, penquins, her dachshund, etc. - flaunt it!
Thank you for a lovely story. My daughter also has a hearing loss, but could never play the piano or sing. We should have thought of charms for her hearing aids! R
Jon Henner- I appreciate our comment and have just taken a look at some of your excellent posts on your blog so I understand your perspective. It's a good suggestion, and she has had some exposure. I also want to clarify that she is not deaf. I am glad to say that she does not think she is limited in her possibilities by her hearing loss. She has also offered herself up as a mentor (OK, playmate) to the few other kids with new diagnoses of hearing loss at her school.
poppi, thank you!

diana ani, those decals are a rocking idea. And having seen your art, they must have been precious.

Christine, nice to meet you. She got the idea for the charms from a friend who also wears hearing aids. That friend told us about a most inspirational little girl in Texas who has a business making and selling professional looking charms online (let me know if you want the link). My daughter like to make things, and I like to encourage that creative and frugal skill, so that is how she ended up making her own. She was assisted by a fabulous beading store owner who was unfazed, and in fact very excited, by the opportunity to help her make some.
I'm proud of you for giving your daughter piano lessons. And I'm glad she decided to become a superhero. She'll need it when she tackles Chopin. Here's to pink hearing aids and classical music!
Steve, when she started I got all excited and bought myself a book of Chopin nocturnes, thinking that my kinesthetic memory would remember. Let's just say she was unimpressed ("how many years did you take lessons for?"). Thanks for stopping by!
I have previously given some thought to the old saw "If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there, does it still make a sound?"
The answer is no. The energy is there released as waves, it bounces around and fades with time just as we perceive sound to do, but it's not sound unless someone hears it! Sound is a phenomenon for the living to perceive and it sounds like your daughter is "hearing" just fine now, just with a little help!
(R)ated for making a grown man cry!
wow, linda. what a remarkable journey the past year must have been. Your daughter DOES sound like a super hero. I love this post!
Lovely post, Linda.
Learning to adapt to difficulties is a great confidence builder and you told it so well!
I'm touched..by you, by your daughter, by your wisdom and heart: " (People think you're an excellent conversationalist if you listen closely, and let them do most of the talking.) And being a good listener is the key to becoming a good storyteller. I think anyone can write, if they listen well; the stories are out there, waiting to be heard, listened to, and retold. "
Fred, I like your philosophical comment.

caroline marie, thanks. I loved that assignment because wouldn't it be nice for every child to think about their superpower?

Ayala, thank you!

Caroline, thanks for reading and commenting. The "conversation" trick works because everyone essentially loves to talk about themselves, and it makes them happy to do so :)
You have a marvelous daughter. I love that she paraded her hearing aids! I must share this with my aunt whose son had to have cochlear implants.
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