My second born son seems to have a hearing problem, or so I told the doctor. He never hears me when I speak to him. He never responds when I call him. I have to ask him to repeat everything I say, yet he never remembers – even 10 seconds after I have finished my sentence. Not a good sign I thought, so I went to our family doctor and told her about it. Given that he is only 4 years old, she was appropriately concerned and asked all the standard questions (“Do you speak loud enough?” – a very stupid question if you have ever heard me speak more than 2 words!). Having satisfied herself that I was not just “making things up”, she referred him to the local children’s hospital for a hearing test. Weeks went by before we finally got an appointment (I guess lots of children have similar problems…), time in which I submitted him to every home-made test imaginable: talking to him from behind his back, hiding behind a pillar and surprising him, calling him at the highest pitch from the bottom of the stairs, screaming from the other side of the dinner table and of course turning the television to unbearable noise levels. Nothing seemed to bother him.
The day of the hearing test finally arrived and diligently he followed the instructions of the doctor’s assistant. He pushed all the buttons, twitched at times, pointed his finger at the screen and smiled occasionally. The assistant looked displeased, so my concern took on a life of its own. My imagination (vivid at the best of times) visualized him wearing a 10 kg hearing aid, just like his grandfather, or even worse, undergoing yet another grueling operation (we’ve had a few of those) to try and rectify his hearing impairment.
A week went by, in which I treated him like a little prince, fearing what lay ahead. How could I not let him get away with ignoring my instructions to clean up his toys, put away his laundry or help set the table. After all, the poor boy couldn’t help not hearing me! Finally the appointment to discuss the test results with the pediatrician arrived. She sat me down, gave me a pensive look, turned to my son and very dryly commented: “You must be a very smart and gifted young man. You seem to have mastered an art which it takes most men 20 years to master.” With a grin reaching from ear to ear, the doctor handed me a pink piece of paper stating: “Diagnosis: selective hearing, usually triggered by mother’s voice”.