DEAR ABBY: A professional nanny in Ohio agonized over whether to tell the mother of twins in her care that one of them might be hearing-impaired. You advised her to notify the mother immediately, and that the children's pediatrician should be told during their next scheduled visit.
I am a pediatrician with a special interest in deafness and a trustee at the Clarke School for the Deaf in Massachusetts. Although I agree with your advice that the nanny should speak to the infant's mother, please let your readers know that there is some urgency involved. Infants should be screened at birth. If deaf infants receive hearing aids and appropriate therapy before 6 months of age, they have a good chance at normal speech and language development.
After 1 year of age, the chances for normal development begin to diminish. If any caregiver suspects hearing loss in an infant, that child's hearing should be tested as soon as possible. -- CONCERNED PEDIATRICIAN, NORTHAMPTON, MASS.
DEAR CONCERNED: Thank you for your informative letter. I was not aware that the timing was critical. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I am the mother of two hearing-impaired children. I have struggled to get our government representatives to understand the value of early detection and push to make it a law for all newborns to be tested. However, until one of them is faced with disability, I'm sure nothing will be done.
Hearing impairment can be detected while the child is still in the womb, and Crib-o-Grams can detect the impairment before the child leaves the hospital. Time is essential to ensure good speech and a normal life.
That nanny should urge the mother to notify the children's pediatrician immediately. -- BEEN THERE, DONE THAT IN MICHIGAN
DEAR B.T.D.T.: I'm sure that many parents will be interested to know that prenatal testing can be done. Thank you.
DEAR ABBY: My son was fitted with his first set of hearing aids at 4 months. He is now 20 and has none of the speech patterns associated with hearing impairment. He had a home-based tutor until he was almost 3 and then was enrolled in a federally funded preschool language program with the local school district. It was a godsend.
Please do that nanny, the parents and the child a huge favor and tell the mother to contact the doctor right away for a brain-stem hearing test. Don't wait for the child's first birthday. Children understand our words long before they can say them back to us. -- MOM WHO HAS BEEN THERE
DEAR MOM: I have learned more from my readers than I could in a classroom.
DEAR ABBY: It is imperative that parents are aware of the fact that deafness is the most commonly overlooked disability. Parents also need to be aware of the deaf culture. Many deaf people, myself included, do not consider themselves disabled. If the twin is deaf or has some hearing loss, the parents and the nanny should make it a point to meet some deaf people in their community. They could best relate to the family and offer some excellent advice.
Also, Abby, the term "hearing-impaired" is no longer as acceptable as it once was. Deaf people should be referred to as "deaf" or "people who have hearing loss." -- BRIANA IN WEST VIRGINIA
DEAR BRIANA: I hear you loud and clear. I stand corrected.