I don’t know what else to call it, except a miracle.
Our son Noah, was born profoundly deaf. From his birth, our family worked very hard at learning sign language and became fairly fluent within a year, completely accepting the fact that Noah would never hear. Although I knew he was made exactly the way God intended him to be, there were just a few sounds that I wished he could hear. Laughter, his own children’s voices when he became a father, and music.
At the age of one, he began to respond to sound for the first time, so we equipped him with hearing aids and began to work with him on speech therapy and listening skills. Noah could hear sounds, but over time, we realized even with hearing aids, his hearing was limited to just a jumble of noises and it was very difficult for him to discern which noise was which. We eventually gave up on this endeavor, seeing that he was very happy without hearing and the beautiful language of signing was the only language for him.
As time passed, Noah’s hearing became worse and what sounds he could once hear began to fade as his loss became greater. His world became more profoundly quiet. This was at times a little scary for me as a mother, as I realized how dangerous the world around him could be if he couldn’t hear certain things. The sound of a car horn, the doorbell, the phone. And deep in the most secret corners of my heart, I still sometimes longed for him to know what a baby’s cry sounds like, or laughter, or music. But I knew these things were not to be, and I also knew that a quiet world has a certain peace to it that hearing people aren’t blessed with.
Last year we learned of new, improved hearing aids and did a little research, discovering that there have been great strides made with technology that might help Noah to hear at his full potential. A teeny, tiny ray of hope peeked out of my heart and I began to wonder if hearing was possible for Noah. Above all, I wondered if he would be able to hear music.
We took him to his audiologist and had him fitted with brand new, top of the line, high-tech gadgets for his little ears. We came home and began testing them out. After only a few hours, I realized Noah wasn’t hearing anything. Tears of frustration filled my eyes as I repeatedly tried to get Noah’s attention, calling his name, clapping my hands, cranking up the stereo. His back to me, he played happily with his racecars, oblivious to any sound.
I tried for a few more days, but finally accepted the fact that nothing was getting through. I decided to return the loaner aids to the school, but suddenly they were nowhere to be found. I looked for the bright yellow ear molds, but they weren’t on top of the entertainment center, where we usually keep them.
Days went by, and then weeks, but I still was unable to find Noah’s hearing aids to return them to his audiologist. I began to worry they were lost, and started praying to find them, as hearing aids are very expensive and not covered by insurance. Panic gripped me as day after day I searched the house top to bottom; still no hearing aids.
After a few months, I told Noah’s audiologist the hearing aids were missing, but promised to keep looking, and if I didn’t find them, would reimburse the school for them. Gulping at the price we would owe, I continued to pray and look for the hearing aids. The school year ended and still no hearing aids. June passed, then July and I knew for sure I had better just plan on paying for them.
August rolled around and our new baby was three months old. Noah was truly a joy to watch with little Ian, so adorable in teaching him to sign, daily reporting to me the new signs Ian was “showing” him. He was so tender with him, it made me think about the day when Noah would become a daddy, what that would be like for him. Deafness brings out a sensitivity to the world around Noah, and I knew he would be a wonderful daddy one day.
Last week our miracle came.
Getting ready for church, I had on a dress that seemed to attract lint. Annoyed, I searched all over for the lint roller to swipe my dress down before church. Distracted by the baby, keeping an eye on Noah and Maya as they got ready, I was only half paying attention, as I reached up and grabbed the lint roller off the entertainment center. As I began to quickly de-lint my dress, I glanced down at it and gasped as I saw them. Two neon yellow hearing aids stuck to the lint roller! I laughed out loud and relief flooded me. I could return them at last to the deaf school.
After church that day, Noah saw his hearing aids, signed “wow”, and asked to wear them. I thought it wouldn’t hurt anything, and put fresh batteries in them and popped them in Noah’s ears.
I turned back to working at my laptop and at the same time, Ian started crying. Noah whipped his head around and his eyes huge, he looked at me, then turned right to Ian and said out loud “WOW!”
Tears immediately filled my eyes as I realized the very thing I had secretly wished for had unexpectedly come true. “He can hear a baby crying”, I thought in amazement. Wow is right! I clapped my hand in pure joy and Noah responded by covering his ears and laughing.
Right away I started testing him to see what else he could hear. The phone rang and he heard it. For the first time in his life, he heard the telephone. “What’s that?” He signed to me. “Phone!”, I replied gleefully. Wow.
I quickly learned he could hear very minute sounds that he had never responded to before. A loud kiss. The snapping of fingers. Simple talking. We began a game where he would stand in the middle of the room, eyes closed and we would take turns saying “Noah”. He would open his eyes and point at who had said his name. We all got choked up as we saw Noah hear our voices.
I laughed in delight at this new miracle and Noah turned to me and laughed right back.
“Did you hear Mama laugh?” I asked him in both sign and voice. “Yes!” He signed back enthusiastically. WOW. My child heard my laugh for the first time.
Last night I got my biggest wish. Our family went to our favorite Chinese restaurant for a dinner celebration. The owner of the restaurant, Jonathon, has always taken a shine to Noah, and always comes to our table to practice his sign language with Noah and play his Yun Chin for our family. Noah has never been able to hear Jonathon play the Yun Chin, as it is very high, sweet music. I popped in Noah’s hearing aids and turned them low as he got used to all the sounds of a busy restaurant. Noah and Jonathon watched the fish aquarium together and Noah asked Jonathon in sign language if he would play his music. After dinner was finished, Jonathon brought the Yun Chin to our table and gently laid it right on the table, right next to Noah. I quickly turned Noah’s aids up a bit and eagerly waited for Jonathon to begin.
The beautiful, clear high pitch of the Yun Chin filled the room. Its melody is sweet and pure and exquisite. Noah leaned into me and rested his head against me. After a moment, I tapped Noah and signed “can you hear the music?” Noah smiled a huge contented grin and simply nodded yes. He leaned his head back and listened to Jonathon’s song for him. Tears filled my eyes as I watched my little guy enjoy this moment.
I don’t know what happened to create this change in Noah. We’re saying ‘wow” a lot these days. We are taking it one day at a time, but knowing Noah can hear the smoke detector, or the doorbell – things to help him be safer is enough for me. The other sounds he can hear are icing on the cake. Noah is still deaf and always will be and that’s just fine with us. I wish I too could hear just when I want to – how peaceful that would be! And if he never hears it again, Jonathon’s song for Noah was a gift to always remember.
Susan Farr-Fahncke [email protected]
I am the author of “Angel’s Legacy”, my book about my sister’s journey through life, also the co-author of numerous books and contributor to gobs of books, magazines and web sites. I also founded 2TheHeart, Angels2TheHeart, and I teach online writing workshops. My favorite job is being mom to Nick, Maya, Noah and new baby Ian and stepmom to Brandie. You can see more of my writing on my page at 2TheHeart, or in our story archives. Http://www.2theheart.com/susan_farr_fahncke