The Sound Of Silence
Simon is about eight years old. He is a stocky, healthy-looking child with an open face and ready smile, but he is deaf. I don’t know quite how deaf he is. If I clap my hands loudly enough, he will sometimes hear it (or sense the air pressure?), and if I make a loud, high-pitched sound with a reed, he will hear that. In fact, he gets quite excited when he hears it, which leads me to believe that he doesn’t hear much else.
When Simon was a baby, about five months old, he contracted malaria. As far as I know, he was taken to hospital and treated, but then lost his hearing. I don’t know if this loss was as a result of the malaria, the treatment or coincidence – I am not a doctor.
So, Simon is deaf. As he lost his hearing at such an early age, he has never learned to talk. He makes sounds, but I don’t know if he can hear them. He knows that when he makes a sound, people will look at him and he can then sign to them, or use facial expressions to convey something.
As is common in Africa, Simon appears to be left to his own devices by his family. Children with “disabilities” are not useful. In fact, some can be considered a burden on the family, something that depletes already scarce resources such as food. I am not saying that Simon is treated as a burden, but he is often seen wandering around when other children are at school.
We believe that Simon is bright. He shows an aptitude for photography. For a child of his age, he takes well-framed, in-focus photos. He is fascinated with photography and understands how to use the different functions of the camera when shown.
We would love to help Simon, but we do not have medical people on our staff, and we don’t have the financial resources to have his hearing (or lack of) tested.
- Would Simon benefit from a hearing aid?
- Is his condition reversible?
- If I take an old, discarded hearing aid to Kenya, will it do any good?
We don’t know. I don’t suppose any doctor would like to hazard a guess without examining the child, but that is what I want you to do, hazard a guess as to why Simon is deaf and whether there is anything that can be done for him.