Parents of deaf children must be presented with all options

Baby with Headphone - Photo courtesy of Medical Research Council

In my post Early Detection of Hearing Loss or Deafness, I received a very interesting response from Robert Mason, a deaf blogger. He said,

I personally have no problem with the simple diagnostic screening of human newborns and infants and youngsters to detect their hearing level whether they are deaf or not. I object to the language written into the Re-Authorization of Early Hearing Detection and Intervention like heavily emphasizing on “medical intervention” and “appropriate programs” which will push parents of deaf babies and youngsters to the biased information without any additional options for acquiring the sign language and educational means.

I totally agree with him on this although I don’t have any idea about the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention program they had in the US. I know there is an equivalent order like that in our country but I’m not familiar with it. I believe parents must be presented with every possible options and not just focusing on medical intervention and cure.

I remember a few years back, I met this Canadian audiologist friend and a brother in Christ. His name is Douglas Clutton. I really admire him a lot because aside from being a professional audiologist, he is a very faithful Christian, a proud father and of course a great sign language interpreter. He is a member of Fishermen for Christ Crusade. After he helped establish the school for the deaf in Ligao, Albay, he went to Bulacan to again take care of another deaf congregation before settling for a year or so interpreting at Greenhills Christian Fellowship where I met him. He also worked in a multinational hearing aid company here for a few months before the whole family was recalled and went back to Canada for good. Based on his experiences, I believe he has experienced both sides (cultural and medical perspective) and thus can be unbiased in his diagnosis. I hope he reads this blog because I want to re-establish our connection. 🙂

He told me that many parents always ask him about “options” for their deaf child. As an employee of a hearing aid company, it is expected of him to be biased and push for the product. But his Christian values always guide him. He often explains to the parents of his patients that hearing aid is not a be-all, end-all solution. If he diagnosed a child to be profoundly deaf, then hearing aid would be worthless. There are other options including learning sign language and finding a school for the deaf for their child. He would cite examples of Deaf people who are successful despite their inability to hear. Pushing a child to talk or to hear would exert undue pressure on him and false hopes on the family. Same is true with deafness in any level. Knowing other alternatives would be very beneficial in making the right choice for the parent and the deaf child.

This is in stark contrast with another audiologist I met in a famous hospital here. Ervin was scheduled to participate in the 6th International Abilympics Competition in India in 2003. One of the requirements is to have a medical document certifying that he is truly deaf. When we went to his clinic, we were surprised at the first thing the doctor asked of him.

Why did your parents not take care of you and allowed you to stay deaf and miserable for the rest of your life?

Now, that was very distasteful and hurtful. I interpreted the exact words to Ervin. Although we felt offended, we simply kept things to ourselves and our Filipino culture of respect to the elders had its way on us. But I still, countered him by responding,

Despite his disability, he is still successful in his own rights. He will be representing the country in an international contest which is a very hard feat. Wouldn’t that count?

However, he still insisted on blaming Ervin’s parents for his “demise”. tsk tsk tsk…

PS: Ervin won the bronze medal in the web design competition besting more than 30 countries around the world. 🙂

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