Megan Hu1

Growing up alongside a little brother with hearing loss was not the ideal way I wanted my childhood to play out. I can remember the constant speech therapy sessions, where he would struggle to make a basic │s│ and │f│ sound and the seemingly never ending hearing aid evaluations and audio tests. He needed special attention from my parents. Hearing aids. And sometimes, I would wonder why he, my brother of all people, had this impairment.

When parents think of their child with hearing loss, they automatically associate it with special classes in school, effects on his personality, lack of ability to do certain activities and so much more. And sometimes, this is true. Kids with hearing loss can fall behind in school, and their social lives can become an issue. But from the start, my whole family knew we didn’t want this for my brother.

Now, I want to clarify that my brother hadn’t lost all of his hearing. His hearing loss ranged from mild to moderate in both ears, but that percent was still enough to make a major difference when it came to learning how to speak and paying attention in class.

But hearing loss by no means disabled him.

As a tagalong sibling too young to stay home by myself, my Mondays afterschool were taken up with speech therapy at The HEAR Center, when my brother’s speech therapist, Ms. Pat Cook, worked with him. I remember ringing the front entrance to be let in and then marching through the hallway with my little karate outfit, a yellow and then later purple belt wrapped around my waist, for karate class was right after speech class. The routine became a habit. Sitting in the corner of the room and completing my homework, I would sometimes listen in on their session, as Ms. Pat would show my brother cards with simple words and phrases and ask him to repeat them. Sometimes they would play games that involved speaking and hearing, and on occasions, I was allowed to join in.

At the time, I didn’t really realize how much help The HEAR Center had been giving my brother. To a seven-year-old like myself who focused on nothing but toys and school, I didn’t see the progress. I just saw a weekly routine. Now I look back and realize how much The HEAR Center had been there for my family and my brother all those years.

Because of The HEAR Center, my brother did not have to be pulled out of general ed for speech class, which may have resulted in his missing a small part of class every day and pushing him even farther behind in the curriculum. His speech, though not perfect, improved greatly until I could not even tell he once had speech class. I watched my brother grow up, and his hearing loss never seemed to affect him.

Yes, hearing loss was not an ideal choice, but my brother was never held back by it. Even with hearing loss, he was able to play on a sports team. He plays the piano and as a member of his school marching band, he plays the alto sax. Today, he continues to earn good grades in school. As his older sister, I watched him grow up, and no longer is he that tiny kid who could not make those high frequency sounds. The HEAR Center was a key success in my brother’s story, and for that I will always be grateful.