The New Normal
During her pregnancy, Kendra did everything right. She took prenatal vitamins, ate healthy food, and followed her doctor’s instructions. She and her husband, Gerald, expected their second child to have typical hearing like his older brother, Gavin. When Ethan was born and didn’t pass the newborn hearing screening, they thought the life they expected him to lead wouldn’t be possible, until Kendra had a conversation that changed everything.
“When we received the diagnosis, we weren't really given several options,” said Kendra. “We thought that our child would be deaf, and we had to possibly learn sign language in order to communicate with him. There was no hope given to us, and I walked out of that hospital with my son in the stroller, crying my eyes out, because it wasn't what my ideal situation would be.”
Desperate to communicate with her newborn baby, Kendra immediately enrolled in American Sign Language classes. At the same time, Gerald began having a recurring dream in which Ethan told him, “I love you,” something that, at the time, didn’t seem like it would be possible. Then, Kendra, a labor and delivery nurse, had a conversation with a coworker who told her about Listening and Spoken Language and encouraged them to get a second opinion. As soon as Kendra and Gerald learned it might be possible for Ethan to learn to listen and speak with the help of hearing technology, they took action. Ethan received cochlear implants in both of his ears several months before his second birthday.
"ETHAN’S PERSONALITY FLOURISHED ONCE HE HAD ACCESS TO SOUND." —Kendra, Ethan’s mom
“I wanted him to be able to learn in school like typical hearing children,” said Kendra. “I wanted him to play on the playground with friends and hear the noises of other children, hear the planes flying in the sky, hear the birds chirping in the morning.”
Since receiving cochlear implants, Ethan’s personality has flourished. Now a vibrant and competitive six-year-old, Ethan gets straight A’s in his mainstream school. As one of the more advanced children in his class, Ethan helps other students with their lessons. He also loves playing sports with his older brother and spending time with his grandparents. ”As parents, we still have the same expectations, but now we know we're on another path with him. The end goal is still the same,” said Gerald. “What we have to do as parents is to provide him with all the resources that he needs to reach those goals.”
During the past four years, Kendra and Gerald have learned to embrace their new journey. “It was just unexpected,” said Kendra. “So what we believed to be normal was not going to be normal anymore.” For Gerald, the most rewarding part of the journey is the fulfillment of his dream: hearing his youngest child say “I love you.”
Ethan was diagnosed with severe to profound hearing loss and auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder (ANSD) Auditory neuropathy is a condition in which the inner ear can receive sounds, but the hearing nerve does not process sound normally. For more on ANSD, visit: https://www.babyhearing.org/auditory-neuropathy-spectrum-disorder
"IT’S THE BEST DECISION WE’VE EVER MADE." —Gerald, Ethan’s dad