unilateral loss

by Ms. Joy

It was a small room, one of many down an offshoot of winding hallways where all the doors look the same. The woman, kind and gentle was fitting capped wires into Boy’s ears. He was quiet, his little back straight beneath his sweater vest. This appointment, this fateful appointment was just meant to be preliminary before we got into the real thick of it. Months before our family doctor’s ears perked up listening to Boy talk to his sister and recommended we make an appointment with a speech therapist.

Speech therapist? We understand Boy very well, at three years old he is rambunctious and loves to talk. A lot, whether someone is listening or not. It seemed inconceivable that he would need a speech therapist but we weren’t taking any chances. The audiologist was a routine appointment. We weren’t expecting any surprises.

“Oh. We’ll just try that again.” The audiologist maintained her professional calm, not giving a thing away under my sharp eye. She refitted the caps with protective sleeves and gently worked them back into Boy’s ears. This is the same “echo” machine used on babies when they are minutes old. It sends a sound down the ear canal and if the babe’s ears are doing just fine, an echo will return to the sensor. The alternative is that there is no echo. It is at that point they try to determine how profound the hearing loss may be.

The boy’s hearing loss is profound and seemingly without reason. It’s only his right ear, through some fluke he has been hiding a Superman left ear. The hearing in his left ear is fabulous, enough that the audiologist was not able to isolate it to test the right ear because it just wouldn’t stop picking up sound, no matter the distortion she threw at it.

Miss N was with me in the soundproof box, all three of us mashed into it with similar walling to a 70s den before the renovation. Boy was wonderful and very brave throughout the entire process. He fitted colourful blocks quickly and easily onto a board each time he heard a sound. Then he wasn’t picking up a single block.

I heard one of the piercing arcs through his earphones. He didn’t move except to turn to me for a hug.

It’s called unilateral hearing loss. It usually has a direct cause like an infection or injury to the ear. Boy’s ears are perfect. When he gets a new haircut he’s a little Dumboish but they are without a doubt perfect. A few doctors checked it out. He has never had an ear infection.

This could be a sad story but it’s not. Boy loves to sing, in fact he was in the kitchen with Mr and I singing Bohemian Rhapsody last night and he has perfect pitch, unlike his exuberant mother. He always knew how his body worked, he was waiting for the day we figured it out.