Training Wheels for the Ears

I’d like to dedicate this story in memory of Kayla. She was the 5th child of one of my closest friends. At around age 16 she developed a severe form of cancer, that lasted about three years. Sadly, she died about three years ago. I frequently think of her and remember her charming personality and most of all her sensitivity to others even at a young age. This story demonstrates how a young child can see things in an imaginative way.

My family would frequently visit my friend’s home during the summer. We would spend most of the day at his backyard pool. All the kids and I would cool off in his oval above-ground pool and then relax in his yard, while my friend grilled hot dogs and burgers for all of us.

My oldest son was fitted with hearing aids when he was about 5 years old. One summer, when my son was about 8, and Kayla was 6, we were in the yard. As my son could not swim with his aids, he removed them and left them near the pool on a towel. Kayla had seen my son wearing his hearing aids, and understood something about what they were, but she thought hat my son was sensitive about his being deaf. Her sister saw the aids on the ground and asked what that was. Kayla said, “That’s his special training wheels that he uses for his ears so that he can learn how to practice his hearing.”

It is amazing how young kids have an innate ability to be sensitive to others. But, in her own way, even unintentionally, Kayla saw, and perhaps, predicted or hoped for something that my wife and I couldn’t. Perhaps, she hoped that my son would hear one day, if he used his “training wheels” long enough.

Well, years later, my son moved on from hearing aids to cochlear implants. Indeed, he did have to retrain his ears with his implants. They are far from perfect, and his hearing will never be as a hearing person. But, overall, he does hear far better than he did when Kayla said that.

Kayla, we don’t know if you are reading this, wherever you may be. My son, my wife and my whole family miss you, tremendously. You should always know how grateful we are for just one small statement said at the right time. You had a way of believing in other people’s potential, sometimes in ways that they could not see, themselves. That thought, alone, strengthens us and keeps us smiling for many years.

About the Author
Daniel Feldman has been a native New Yorker his entire life. He is a computer analyst, technical writer and trainer. He enjoys the unusual - whether it's travelling to unusual places, inventing unusual recipes or interviewing unusual people, he will probably write or speak about it. In this blog, Daniel presents stories from his unusual as a "Middle Ear". His parents were deaf and his oldest son is also deaf. You will find a collection of some of the poignant, humorous and amazing stories about he as well as other deaf people have dealt with the challenges of deafness in a changing hearing technologically advancing world.
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