Hayley’s broken hearing aid

A broken hearing aid throws life into chaos for Hayley… thank goodness for a helpful audiology department

Wednesday evening, in the car

Hayley’s just got into the car after finishing a day’s work experience placement at a hotel, as part of her college course. Before I can ask her how it went, she’s launched into a full-on rant, on the verge of tears.

“Oh my god, you’ve got to do something! My hearing aid’s broken, I can’t hear anything, I’m not going into college in the morning if I can’t hear! I don’t care if I get into trouble, I’m not going!”

Teenager girl taking off hearing aid

I try to calm her down, but there’s not much I can say because we can’t do anything until tomorrow when the audiology department will be open and hopefully sort us out.

She’s really upset because she’s struggled to hear for six hours, including instructions from the chefs and front of house manager, and she’s embarrassed. Normally she manages so well that the issue never comes up anywhere, even at work where she’s a part time kitchen assistant in a pub restaurant; no-one’s even asked about her hearing aids.

It’s funny how you get to take things for granted, especially when you’re seeing it from the outside.

Hayley is moderately deaf in both ears, wears two hearing aids, and without them – and a bit of lip-reading – she struggles desperately. In her waking moments she’s never without them, you almost get lulled into forgetting she’s deaf. I still get surprised when I go to wake her in the morning, and talk to her and she can’t hear anything I’m saying, until she reaches over for her hearing aids and pops them in.

We’ve grown to take it for granted over the 10 years since she’s worn them, whereas at first we were more aware of whether she could hear, of how exhausting a school day was for her straining to hear in the chaos of the classroom, corridors and playground.

Hayley’s become so independent with it all, now we don’t give it so much thought – until a blip like this.

She’s done well really, she’s had hearing aids since she was eight and she’s only broken one once before, and lost two (one left on a train after she took it out to put headphones on, the other got eaten – well thoroughly chewed anyway – by the dog).

I know what the problem is this time. It’s the hook that’s broken – the little bit attached to the electronic part of the hearing aid which the tube pushes onto.

What’s happened is that after much nagging, she finally re-tubed her hearing aid this morning and because she’d left it so long the tube got brittle, was hard to pull off, and the pressure cracked the delicate hook.

Next morning I call the audiology department and they say bring it in. It’s 45 minutes’ drive and sure enough the lovely staff sort it, and within two hours I hotfoot it back to deliver it to Hayley.

“Yes I’ll re-tube it sooner next time,” she promises as she runs off for her train to college.

Even Hayley takes her hearing aids for granted, but I think this time maybe she will do it!

Hayley’s not looking after her hearing aids

Now Hayley is growing up, Tiger mum has to persuade her to take on responsibility for aspects of her own life and health – but it’s not always easy…

Saturday night, in the garage…

Hayley is hiding in her room. I’m fuming.

I’ve just spent the best part of an hour trying to sort out her hearing aid.

Teenager girl taking off hearing aid

It doesn’t say anything about this in the hearing aid guides, nor the NDCS video about hearing aid maintenance and re-tubing.

The problem is this tube hasn’t been touched for ages. Hayley just will not remember to re-tube or even to clean them. I nag and nag, but she seems to think it’s acceptable to just keep wearing them as long as they keep working. The most she’ll do is put a battery in when it runs out.

You’re supposed to clean them daily, I tell her repeatedly. ‘Even every couple of days would be okay,’ I bargain.

But I swear I can’t remember the last time she did it. In fact I don’t think she’s cleaned them since her last audiology appointment three months back.

Honestly!

When I put that to her earlier she looked very sheepish, so guilty she didn’t even bother snapping at me in the usual full-on, hormonal teen fashion that is the default for so many exchanges these days.

So now here we are. I’d said wouldn’t it be nice if she went to her catering job tonight with nice clean hearing aids.

She apologised for being such a slob and we’ve agreed that they’re so old and brittle, she should re-tube them.

Except that’s turned out to be easier said than done. She couldn’t remove the tube from this one, so she gave it to me. I’ve tried. I’ve pulled and twisted, even warmed it up by pouring hot water over the end of the tube, but all to no avail.

Now I’m in the garage in the dark, in the freezing cold, hunting out a pair of pliers

I return to the kitchen with a selection of tools. I pull and pull with the pliers but the tube – which has become hardened and unpliable, so won’t ease off of the hook – just flattens and extends. I’m worried I’ll snap off the hook.

I persevere for the next 20 minutes, alternating with pouring boiling water onto the tube, scalding my fingers in the process.

Hayley ventures downstairs, chances a peek around the door.

‘Any luck Mum?’

I rant on again about how ridiculous this is, and she flees back up to the sanctuary of her room.

Right. I need a sharp knife. The only way I can see to do it is to cut a little slit into the top of the tube, but without slicing through to the hook beneath.

Another five frustrating minutes later and success – I pull the tube clear.

Now for re-tubing. I call Hayley down so she can be involved, and she gets on and snips the new tube into a sharp point to thread through the mould.

It’s done. She whisks off to work just in time, complete with hygienic hearing aids.

Now I’ve written it on the calendar in bold red, every three days: HHA – Hayley Hearing Aids. Clean them. She’s promised to do it.

I can’t believe other people do it every day – do they?

Why not comment below and let Tiger Mum know how often you or your child cleans their hearing aids?

Hayley misplaces one of her hearing aids

Hayley misplaces one of her hearing aids, and is mortified when mum tells her their lively, lovable pup’s found it and chewed it up!

Hayley is looking at me impatiently. “Well?” she demands.

She spots the dog yawning luxuriously, waking from an afternoon nap, and drops her school bag to rush over and cuddle her. Hayley adores the dog who adores her back, and for a moment I put off finishing what I’d started telling her.

pink-hearing-aid

Hayley mislaid one of her hearing aids yesterday and we agreed that while she checked her classrooms and school locker, I would hunt round the house for it. She’s very good at looking after them and she gets very upset when she thinks she’s lost one. If ever they are misplaced, it’s not for long; they usually turn up in a pocket or down the side of her bed.

At lunchtime I texted Hayley to tell her the missing hearing aid had turned up at home, so she could stop looking.

Now she wants it back.

“Well,” I say, cautiously. “The good news it’s been found… The bad news is, it was the dog that found it…”

Her mouth falls open as the penny drops. “Oh no, she hasn’t…?”

I nod slowly. The dog has of course eaten it. Well, given it a good chew before I could get it off her anyway.

She’s a large, curious and hungry five month old puppy who eats everything, including stones, house bricks and the back door. A hearing aid would be a mere morsel!

Hayley wails and a look of worry pins the dog’s ears back to their ‘guilty’ position.

But Hayley can’t stay mad at the dog for long, she’s her best friend.

Since we got her from a rescue shelter last summer, this pup’s proved to be worth her weight in gold when it comes to being a loyal and loving companion.

“With her mild ASD, Hayley finds it difficult to make close friends”

With her mild ASD, Hayley finds it difficult to make close friends. She spends a lot of time, when she’s not at one of her many sporting/Guiding/Air Cadets activities, at home with boring old us for company.

It’s been lovely to see her bond with our new family member, care for her, help to train her, the only one initially who could get her out in the rain for a toilet trip.

Right now Hayley’s worried that audiology will charge us for a new aid, but I tell her how nice they were on the phone when I told them the dog had eaten it (mortified shrieks from Hayley, ‘Mum you didn’t actually tell them that!’) and that they would arrange for a new one right away, with no charge incurred. Everyone in that department is really lovely; I know how lucky we are because not everyone has such a good experience with audiology services in different regions.

So all’s well. Except that Hayley’s younger brother Harry, who’s heard the news, is thrusting his maths exercise book under the dog’s nose and making chomping noises.

“If I could just get her to like it as much as she likes hearing aids,” he says. “Then I wouldn’t have to do my homework…”

Cleaning hearing aids

Tiger Mother wonders why fiercely independent moderately deaf 14-year-old Hayley cleans her own hearing aids so reluctantly.

Hayley and I have just had an argument about her hearing aids – trying to establish whether she’s cleaned them or, as I suspect, not. A year ago it occurred to me it was time she took responsibility for them. After all, she’s 14 – she should know how to look after them.

She’s fiercely independent, has long fought to do things herself. She irons her clothes, cooks three course meals to competition standards, manages train journeys alone – why would I still clean her hearing aids?

She grudgingly agreed, but has proved sloppy at doing it daily, as recommended.

“It’s like cleaning your teeth,” I tell her regularly. “Make it part of your daily routine. And no, I’m not suggesting you use toothpaste on them!”

I don’t understand why she won’t take them more seriously. They’re a lifeline for her – at least her right one is, she had a mild loss in her left ear and feels that one has only borderline benefit, so she leaves it out sometimes.

One day she’ll have to do it herself. Why not start now?

It’s like most things with teenagers, if it suits them they’ll do it (“Mum I’m not a kid!”), otherwise they’re happy for you to do it (“You’re the mum, you should do that for your kid!”).

Hormones being what they are at her age, raging and ricocheting around the house, we row about everything from getting up for school to how often is acceptable to borrow my mascara ( taking it away with her on a Guides holiday without asking is at the unacceptable end).,

So it’s one more thing to erm, discuss, loudly and with feeling. I try to gently remind her about cleaning them, which can result in either a disinterested tut and rolling of the eyes, or a full scale, bellowing tantrum complete with stamping off and door slamming finale.

It did result in a run in with her Teacher of the Deaf (ToD). I received a report stating that Hayley’s aids had wax in the tubes and that Hayley said she hadn’t worn her left aid since we’d last visited the audiologist (two months earlier), because it wasn’t working properly.

The ToD stressed the importance of daily cleaning, recommending that “a named member of staff liaise with Hayley about the cleanliness of her ear moulds and monitor the usage of her left hearing aid”.

The conclusion drawn was that Hayley hadn’t worn the aid for two months because it wasn’t working, as she hadn’t cleaned it. But neither of these things were true!

At the audiology appointment, Hayley mentioned it wasn’t working properly so the audiologist re-tubed it and tested it. Hayley still wasn’t happy and the audiologist suggested it was Hayley’s ear or perception that’d changed.

Hayley continued wearing it until week before the ToD visit. Yes the aids were waxy, but Hayley always has wax build-up in her ears; you could put the aids in clean and they’d instantly come out waxy.

“It made me seem like an unfit mother who needed checking up on”

So now it’s on some official file that Hayley didn’t wear her aid for two months because we hadn’t bothered to clean it.  It made me seem like an unfit mother who needed checking up on. In fact I’m doing all I can for her – it’s usually me chasing everyone else to meet her needs!

Why didn’t they ask me? I could’ve explained things more accurately than a 14-year-old with ASD, little grip on timescale, a poor memory and not the best communication skills.

Anyway, I know the ToD was only doing her job and it’s probably done us a favour – Hayley was embarrassed into cleaning them more often, hopefully cutting down our rowing time!