The First Time He Heard His Grandson

My father-in-law had a profound hearing loss for all of his adult life. He was always hard of hearing, but when he was 17, he finally lost most of his hearing abilities. Throughout his childhood, he was often sick with ear infections and other issues. This led him to be classified as someone with learning disabilities, just because he did not hear well. He told us that one morning, he stepped into the shower with the ability to hear and by the time he stepped out of the shower, he was completely deaf. This was back in the late 60s.

I cannot imagine what it was like for him and to not be able to hear. This was not the most tolerant time in America, and people with disabilities were not necessarily treated with respect. But more importantly, I cannot imagine how it feels to literally hear one second and not hear the next. By the time I met him in 2006, he was able to hear again with a surgically implanted device called a cochlear implant. He could tell various stories that would leave your jaw dropped for hours about his life and not hearing. The man was far from dumb – although thanks to stereotypes about disabilities, he had to prove that to anyone he met.

I am jumping ahead of myself, so let’s take a step back. See, my father-in-law did not know sign language. He was not deaf or have profound hearing loss his entire life, and no one ever took the time to teach him sign language as he aged. This is not as uncommon as we may think. He did, however, know how to read lips. As long as people spoke slowly, he could follow along with what was being said. He met my mother-in-law when they were young. They married and had two children, yet he never heard them speak. He had no idea what they sounded like, and it broke his heart.

He worked for Boeing Air Lines for his entire career.  Since he couldn’t hear this was a perfect job for him he told us. He was mechanically skilled, and the noises did not bother him. He loved his job and they were good to him. In the 90s he shared that computers became household items and allowed him to communicate with people more easily.  He joined hard of hearing communities online and used email to speak to his family and friends when he was home.

Then, in the early 2000s, he heard about cochlear implants. He was very uncertain about this procedure and the risk involved and felt as though he had a good enough life despite his deafness. But he was missing one thing: he always wanted to hear his children. He and my mother-in-law discussed it at length and decided it was worth the risk. So, he had the implant surgically placed by an ENT Surgeon. When he  first started hearing through his implant a month after the surgical procedure, his world expanded and he even said ROCKED  his world like never before. He heard his children speak for the first time. Although they were adults, he was grateful to hear them and learn  their voices.  He still needed to use his lip reading skills but he said he could hear.  He said it was quite a learning process to hear again but well worth the discomfort of hearing for the first time.

Then, in 2003, his first grandchild was born. When he met him, he heard the infant cry. While most of us would just want the baby to stop, my father-in-law found this to be music to his ears. From the first cry, he was in love, and he knew he made the right decision. My father-in-law passed away a couple of years ago. But before he died, he experienced many things for the first time through his grandson. He experienced a child’s laughter. He experienced a child’s cry. Most importantly, he heard the young voice of his grandson say, “I love you, Poppy.” My father-in-law once said to me that hearing his grandson for the first time made the procedure well worth the risk, and he only wished he gotten the implant sooner.

To learn more about cochlear implants and power hearing aids and how they may help improve the quality of your life, contact the experts at Chears Audiology at (952) 767-0672.

Leave a Reply