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When I was a kid, I found out that I was born hearing impaired. When I grew a little older I thought everyone heard pretty much what I heard. My hearing physician, a kindly man, said I had nerve deafness(those days, the diagnosis). I didn’t think much of it. I played sports, went to school, got along and life went on for me. I completed high school, college, law school, marriage, fatherhood and life as a man, lawyer, and consumer rights advocate. I got my first hearing aid when I was 26 and had moved to Berkeley.
My kid sister Ellen, (later diagnosed as profoundly hearing impaired), was 15 months younger than me and was thought by some that she might have been developmentally delayed because of the way she behaved as a little kid. No way said my mom and dad, refusing to believe she was that way. For years mom would take us on appointments with various physicians and the like in New Jersey where we lived and New York, to evaluate my sister and find what was the problem. One day, a New York physician found that she was very “hard of hearing” and her hearing loss was very significant. A hearing aid was ordered and my sister joined the hearing world.
Back then a hearing aid looked like a pack of playing cards with two wires coming out of it and things at the end that would go into the ears. Ellen needed a hearing aid which was ugly, scary and intimidating to most and especially a little girl. My parents agreed but a unit was ordered. Later the the hearing contraption was delivered to the house. I recall no fitting of it in an office. Ellen was 10. I was 11. Mom, Ellen and I went upstairs to our bathroom. Mom opened the package, removed the thing, got the large batteries inside the unit and put the ear pieces into my sister’s ears.
In the meantime, I was fidgeting, playing with the water faucet, turning it on then off, hot then cold, while my mom placed the ear pieces into my sister’s ears . During that time Ellen was facing my mom. Then the hearing aid was turned on and sound/volume introduced. Suddenly, my sister turned to me to see what I was doing. At the same time she looked at the water running out of the faucet into the sink and started to smile. For the first time in her life, she heard the sound of running water and smiled at me. I watched her wonderful reaction. That moment created a clear memory which will never leave me or others who can envision it and gives me the chills to this day.
Ellen grew up a fine woman, went to college, became an elementary school teacher, and married Bob. They have three kids, and after some 35 years, Ellen retired from teaching. She is now full time with husband Bob and is involved with her 3 adult “kids” and three grand kids.