Meagan Deal is a stay-at-home mom who advocates for hearing loss awareness. She and her husband, Brandon, have been married for 10 years. They have two children: McKenzi (9) and Sarah (3).
WP: In 2017, your daughter, McKenzi, woke up completely deaf at the age of 6. Can you tell me about that day?
MD: To start off, we worried but we didn’t believe she was actually deaf at first. We thought she had fluid on her ears. A little backstory to help you understand: a few months prior to waking up deaf she had fluid buildup on her ears and had to have tubes put in. Kenzi wore hearing aids prior to her Cochlear Implant, so having fluid buildup significantly changed her hearing since she heard through her ears (With a cochlear implant you don’t hear through your ears.). This is why when she woke up this particular morning we assumed the fluid had returned.
WP: Going from some hearing to none at all is a big change. Talk to me about some of the changes your family had to make moving forward.
MD: We didn’t know very much ASL, sadly. We knew maybe 10 words and those were so basic such as yes, no, eat – nothing we could hold a conversation with. I imagine it was extremely lonely for her at 6 years old. The thought of this always brings a tear to my eye. She relied very heavily on lip reading and is now a pro at it.
WP: You say that you prayed for McKenzi’s hearing to either stay as it was or for her to go ahead and lose it completely while she was young. Why is that?
MD: Well we knew that the younger she was the better it was for her. Whether she chose the CI route or not. Either one would take a lot of adapting. And if she chose the CI route it works better the younger you are. I guess you could say they adjust better the younger the person is. We knew it would be much easier on her if she went deaf young versus in high school, for example.
WP: You guys decided to move forward with Cochlear Implant Surgery, which was successful. Tell me a little about that experience?
MD: At first my husband and I were against it. We basically left it up to McKenzi though. She missed hearing music and knew she wanted to hear her little sister who was born after McKenzi woke up deaf. She knew exactly what she wanted, and we supported her 100 percent. We would have supported her either way. It was very scary having them go in so close to her brain. I think that was our biggest concern. After we got past the surgery and recovery, we were so excited and no longer as worried.
WP: That was four-and-a-half years ago…how is McKenzi doing now?
MD: Oh goodness, McKenzi is such an incredible person. Anyone who knows her will tell you she ALWAYS has a smile on her face. She is literally the most positive person you’ll ever meet. She has adapted wonderfully. She still has her struggles, such as being in big crowds – it’s very difficult to hear in those situations – but our family is working on our ASL, so we are getting better and better at communicating in those situations.
WP: You have another daughter. How has she adapted to McKenzi’s deafness?
MD: Sarah understands her sister can’t hear like us and knows she has to have her CI to hear. She is learning to sign and tells Kenzi to look at her lips if Kenzi is struggling to understand her. In some instances if Kenzi doesn’t have her CI on Sarah will go get it and tell her to put it on. It’s kind of funny sometimes watching them.
WP: All parents struggle, but it’s different when you have a child that’s considered special. What would you say is the most difficult thing you’ve had to overcome as McKenzi’s mom, and how did you do so?
Watching her struggle to communicate with others. Kids will be kids and get frustrated trying to communicate with her. I have to remind myself it’s natural for them to get frustrated and not understand her not being able to hear. That’s where parents teaching their kids to be patient and kind with all people comes in and is so important.
But even then, kids will still be kids. Sometimes adults will talk slower like she’s a bab. I know they just think they’re helping, but it’s actually kind of offensive honestly. It literally breaks my heart seeing her try to keep up in conversations. Especially when someone just gives up on her and says “never mind.” That’s such an awful thing to say to a deaf person. They want to know what is going on as much as a hearing person.
I have to remind myself this is why we do what we do – to educate others, because most people just honestly don’t think this way. They don’t know how to react when we say she’s deaf, and that’s understandable. Again, that’s why we do what we do: to educate others.
WP: If there was one thing you wished people understood about children with a hearing impairment – deafness, hearing loss, etc. – what would it be?
MD: They are just normal people. It might be a little harder to communicate with them, but once you get past that they are just like hearing people. And if you are unsure of how to communicate, use a pen and paper, use your phone, look at them directly and speak normally, they will read your lips. Facial expressions are HUGE, since deaf people can’t hear they rely on facial expressions.
WP: Having a special needs child can become an all-consuming thing. How do you, as a mom, make sure you’re not spreading yourself too thin?
MD: With McKenzi getting older she is able to take care of her CI a lot more. That definitely helps a lot. I do make sure to always start my day with prayer. At breakfast I read a devotion. Doing these two things gives me a great start to my day. I also try to take a few minutes after lunch to just sit down for a few minutes and rest depending on what we have going on that day. Then, of course, ending my day with my husband and our girls reading is always a fun time. We take this time to wind down and relax.
WP: Your family’s experience with McKenzi’s hearing loss prompted you to start a blog (MeaganDeal.com). What’s your goal behind it?
MD: My goal has always been to educate others on hearing loss, particularly in children. Secondly, to help other parents in our situation. When Kenzi was diagnosed with progressive hearing loss I felt so alone. I searched the internet for blogs and searched Facebook for groups. However, Instagram was more helpful than anything. I met several awesome moms in similar situations through the app. This is why we started our Instagram and eventually our TikTok account. People can actually see our faces and our real-life moments. Having social media and a blog is more helpful than just having one or the other, in my opinion and in our situation.
WP: What advice would you give to families who find themselves in a similar situation?
MD: Find other parents in the same situation. Even finding just one other person will help you feel less alone and is helpful for helping with questions.
WP: What about you? If you could go back to when you first became a mom and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
MD: Don’t listen to what everyone else tells you to do with your child. Everyone is different and there is no “one size fits all” with parenting. A child’s mother knows best. God gave you your child for a reason, he didn’t give them to anyone else! Trust in him and look to him for guidance.