Monday, November 7, 2011

Dear Abby

I spotted this in my newspaper this morning. I can't recall encountering this type of reaction before, but I can see how some people could respond ignorantly. Have any of you experienced this before?
Dear Abby: My 16-year-old son, “Victor,” is hearing-impaired. He wears hearing aids in both ears. The aids are small and not easily seen.
Recently we were in a new doctor’s office, and the nurse was talking to my son but looking in another direction. When I explained that Victor is hearing-impaired and couldn’t hear her, she replied, “Oh, I know teenagers — selective hearing.” I said, “No, he is hearing-impaired and wears hearing aids.”
The same thing happened at summer camp. My husband said Victor has a hearing problem, and the counselor responded with, “So I need to smack him on the side of his head to get him to listen?”
My son has informed people he wears hearing aids because he can’t hear well, and he still gets the same smart-alecky retorts. Have you any suggestions?
Not Being Flippant
in Pennsylvania
Dear Not Being Flippant: Oh, yes. The nurse in your doctor’s office was tactless. If she didn’t apologize for her comment, you should have mentioned it to the doctor so he could educate her not only about hearing loss, but also about diplomacy. As to the ignorant camp counselor, your husband should have immediately reported it to the camp director.
After reading your letter, I consulted Dr. Rick Friedman at the House Ear Clinic in Los Angeles, who told me that approximately one in 2,000 children is born with hearing problems. (There is a genetic component, and hearing problems can run in families.) Being subjected to loud noises can also have a negative impact on hearing, and Dr. Friedman said studies are being conducted to determine to what extent.