The therapy worked, but its still puh-cahn pie

Dad, when he was still trying to coach me as a writer, often suggested that I write about deafness. Since his own writing usually reflected his sense of humor, he thought I ought to offer a funny perspective about it. I never did write about it, humorously or otherwise. My childhood felt like a strange, dark closet where real or imaginary noises piped up without warning and meaning. I felt absolutely certain that I missed hearing something important at any given moment of the day.

Mark Hartley, Editor

Dad, when he was still trying to coach me as a writer, often suggested that I write about deafness. Since his own writing usually reflected his sense of humor, he thought I ought to offer a funny perspective about it. I never did write about it, humorously or otherwise. My childhood felt like a strange, dark closet where real or imaginary noises piped up without warning and meaning. I felt absolutely certain that I missed hearing something important at any given moment of the day.

I don`t know anymore. I don`t hear birds sing, and I have a heckuva time understanding my daughter`s high-pitched voice. But when I put my "good" ear next to the pillow at night, nothing wakes me up. I also can remain blissfully neutral in arguments about who the greatest rock bands of all time are. Ditto for orchestras, country musicans, etc. So there are some blessings here.

A fever associated with German measles at age three wiped out most of my hearing. My audiologist describes me as being "severely hearing impaired" with a 71 percent hearing disability. All I know is that I get by just fine. I prefer one-to-one conversations. I tend to get lost in conversations involving three or more people. My wife probably finds me to be a very intent listener when it`s just the two of us - somewhat less than the life of the party at social gatherings.

A three-year-old suddenly thrown into deafness, as Cathy Alty points out in this issue, experiences some legitmate obstacles in communication. Since you`re not that far along in verbal skills at age three, English is like learning a second language all over again. Speech therapists devoted countless hours in instructing me about the nuances of the English language - something I apparently was picking up naturally before the measles. But the therapy worked. The stigma of being inferior to others in communicating eventually became a non-factor in my life. About the only memory I have was when neighborhood kids hooted in delight when I pronounced, "church." I would say something like, "I gotta go. Momma wants me to go to church." Jerry Seinfeld, I`m sure, would like to be able to get laughs as easily as I did. My take on it is that a speech impediment is not the most serious disability that can occur to you; but, to young children, it`s a serious blow to be unable to communicate as everyone else does. It wounds your self-confidence and self-esteem.

I still mispronounce words. The wife and I usually just smile about it when she corrects me. But I keep insisting to that Yankee woman I married that it`s "puh-cahn pie," not "pea-can pie." When I order the most delicious dessert on the planet, I know what to say to the waitress.

I know it`s not your job to assist in diagnosing speech disorders. As the article points out, though, parents suffer through a great deal of hesitation over whether to "fix" a child`s speech. Speaking from my own experience, the therapy I received as a kid made the difference in how I`m able to live my life today. The therapists, for the most part, were graduate students. I seriously doubt they remember me. I clearly remember them - their patience and caring atitudes, as well as the "tricks" they used to help me remember how to speak English.

As always, this month and every month, God bless the children!

Editor Mark Hartley can be contacted at markh@pennwell.com

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