A Hearing Aid Helped My Brother to Grow Up

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My brother is the only person I’ve ever known who spent energy trying to convince my parents to buy him a hearing aid. To some people it might seem awkward or set yourself apart among a group of notoriously shallow teenagers, but he knew that a little heckling was a small thing compared with constantly having the mute button on his ears.

He started experiencing problems when he was playing little league baseball. With a batting helmet on he couldn’t hear directions his coach was shouting from the dugout. At times we wasn’t sure what the count was because he couldn’t tell whether the umpire said nothing indicating a ball, or he simply didn’t hear him proclaim strike.

Mike learned to combat these problems by starting to read the lips of his coach. He would sometimes step out of the batters box and double-check the count with the umpire. In school, he learned to sit in the front of the classroom. Still, he was missing things during the course of the day.

While we got prepared for meals at home sometimes mom would ask him to set the table or grab an ingredient out of the refrigerator and he failed to recognize the request. It was at a family reunion that my parents finally realized he needed a hearing aid.

We were having a picnic when an errant frisbee came soaring in our general direction. My dad recognized it first and screamed to “duck.” My mom and I bent down so that we didn’t get struck. As we bent, the frisbee went right over our heads and crashed into Mike’s nose. He simply had not heard dad’s warning.

The difference in his hearing was immediate when he got the hearing aid. Instead of always being defensive and wondering whether he was missing something, he lived his life with confidence and knowledge that he was not different than anybody else. Because of his full understanding of the situation, the heckling that occasionally took place from peers he brushed aside. Mike knew that being able to listen and understand their mocking was a lot better than missing whatever else they or anybody else might be saying.

He has lived with that hearing aid for more than a decade now. To me he’ll always be a great brother. What brings a smile to my face is the fact he knew what he wanted, adjusted perfectly, and has moved on to graduate from college, get a great job, find a beautiful and wonderful spouse, and early next year they are expecting a baby boy. Understanding that everybody has unique qualities and if you don’t like your condition there are ways to change it has been a tremendous lesson that he has proven to our family and all of his friends.

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