By Valerie Abbott

Most parents would not categorize the sound of passing gas as one that sparks joy. In fact, many of us began gently teaching our children from a very young age that bodily noises, such as burps and farts, are sounds that should be avoided amongst company, and most certainly in public places. 

But, what if your child couldn’t hear them? 

This was the case with my daughter when she was a toddler. We didn’t know, at the time, that a genetic mutation had permanently damaged the tiny hairs within her cochlea. She was a very healthy child – so healthy, in fact, that she enjoyed eating many gas producing foods such as beans and onions. She would go about her day tooting away, often in places where strangers would glance and then giggle. 

When Bridget was two years old, we finally discovered her hearing loss. It was nothing short of an emotional rollercoaster as no one in our family was deaf. After receiving her first pair of hearing aids, which were baby pink, we leveraged every opportunity to celebrate what she could now hear – including birds and thunder and whispers…

…and farts. 

Yes, farts. Strange as that is to share, we had no idea that she had probably never heard the sound of herself passing gas.

One day in the middle of hardcore potty training, Bridget was sitting on the toilet. Her little legs were swinging over the edge, her tiny hands were pushing down on the toilet seat as she held herself up. I was sitting on the side of the bathtub, doing whatever it is mothers do to convince their children to patiently wait. 

Suddenly, and without warning, it happened. The long, loud and deep sound of gas leaving her body. Her eyes jumped open. She looked at me, then she looked behind her. 

“What was THAT?!” she asked. 

“What was what?” I responded.

“The noise?” she asked again. 

I covered my face with my hands in an attempt to suppress the huge belly laugh building inside of me. Oh my God, I thought. THIS IS AMAZING. 

“That, my love, was you,” I stated, trying not to crack.

Bridget looked confused. “Me?” she asked. 

“Yes, that was you. That was very much you. That is called gas and some people call it a fart, but we don’t. We call it gas or passing gas.” 

The weeks and months that followed were new territory. Suddenly her body was capable of making sound! And when it did, she would say with excitement, “That was me! I passed the gas!” 

For many parents of children who are deaf and hard-of-hearing, the discovery of new sounds is a joyful one. It’s not only a learning opportunity (cats = meow, dogs = bark, birds = chirp), but sometimes the evidence we need to keep us motivated. To keep us focused on sights and sounds and language acquisition in everyday moments. 

Yes, farts make a beautiful sound. I remain grateful my child can hear them. 

**Valerie Abbott is a 1-3-6 Family Educator and Learning Community Coordinator for the Center for Family Involvement at VCU. In this dual role, Valerie works closely with parents of deaf and hard-of-hearing children and professionals to help reduce loss to follow up. A graduate of Hollins University, she lives in Henrico County with her husband and two daughters, one of whom is hard-of-hearing. **

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