Life Advice



Getting Curious Instead of Getting Defensive

Annie Lane on

Dear Annie: After reading the letter from "Family Friend," who is concerned about the development of the 2-year-old child of a friend, I wanted to share my own experiences. Perhaps this child may not be speaking well because he is not hearing properly.

My daughter-in-law (special ed teacher and school counselor) felt that her eldest child, my grandson, was not speaking as well as he should have been when he was very young, probably 18 months or so. She monitored the situation and mentioned it to her pediatrician, who referred her to an ENT specialist. His diagnosis was fluid on the ears. He compared it to how sound is muffled when our ears are under water. My grandson had tubes put in his ears, and some speech therapy, and was soon speaking often and properly.

I am the mother of a deaf child. My son had spinal meningitis when he was 9 months old -- high fever and swelling in the brain damaged his hearing. When my son was about 18 months old, our elderly neighbor asked me if I'd ever noticed that my son often didn't respond when spoken to, or to a sudden noise, etc. I will be FOREVER GRATEFUL for his comment. I wasn't upset with my neighbor at all, and I began to pay much more attention to my little boy. Our pediatrician even downplayed it when I contacted him. He never told me that hearing loss is not uncommon after a serious illness such as meningitis. As my son was very verbal and made a lot of noise, I'd overlooked the fact that he wasn't actually speaking even the simplest words.

All this to say, I do hope that this caring individual will mention her concerns to her family friend. One month after my neighbor's comment, my son had been tested (severely hard-of-hearing) and was enrolled in a preschool for the deaf. No doubt, my husband and I would have eventually realized that our son wasn't verbalizing as he should, but our neighbor's caring comment alerted us, and we began seeking answers immediately. In cases like this, early detection is important, as treatment can began. My son was in deaf education throughout his education, graduated from a college for the deaf and has a very good job.

I enjoy reading your column -- thank you. -- Hearing


Dear Hearing: Thank you for your letter. I hope it encourages others to tell friends if they identify something of concern that needs professional help. Your actions are that of a wonderful mother. You didn't get defensive when your neighbor expressed his concern; you got curious about it. And that curiosity is what led to early detection in your son's hearing loss. Bravo.


"How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?" is out now! Annie Lane's second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to




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