Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Little Babes & Their Ears

24 hours after you give birth a nurse will come into your hospital room. Well ... actually, in our case, it was a CNA. But the point is --- SOMEONE will come into your hospital room and whisk your little darling away to the place we refer to as "The Wizard's Room". I don't know why we call it that. We just do.

There are a series of tests they do on your little babe at this time. I have no idea what any of the tests are. I suppose there are probably parents out there that are nosey enough to ask. We didn't. I trust our medical staff and I assume that whatever it is they are doing in the secret wizard's lair is probably A-OK.

The only test I know they do for sure is a hearing screening. The only reason anyone bothered to tell me about the hearing screening is because our little lady failed hers. Apparently that happens alot and it really wasn't concerning to anyone in a white coat so we just rolled with the punches.

They tested her again before we were discharged ... another failure. Actually I believe the term the used was, "referred". But "failure" seems more clear cut to me --- so that's what I'll use.

She failed a handul of tests during her first couple of months.

It's an interesting process really. They take us back into a little sound proof box. When the baby is sound asleep they stick little plugs in her ears and somehow they are able to magically tell you things you didn't know were possible.

Like, how far down the ear canal sound is able to travel or whether or not there is movement in the eardrums.

At her 2 month audiology appointment, Anna Kate was still referring in both ears and apparently had no movement in her ear drums. We were instructed to follow up in two weeks to have the same tests done one more time. We were told is she failed the tests again we would be moving on to "the next step". "The "next step" is similar to an EKG only it's done on the ears. From there we would be talking about tubes or cochlear implants or other possible treatments.

At the follow up appointment we were pleased to find out that her right ear actually passed with flying colors! Hooray! Her left ear, however, was still referring. They administered "the next step" test. Again, a really cool process. They stuck little stickies attached to wires on her ears, temples, and forehead & then we sat in silence for several minutes,

The findings were all positive --- her nerve is in tact and there are no abnmormalities or deformities. Great news!

They tell us that all signs point to nothing more than a little fluid in her inner ear. We go back in 2 months to have it checked out. They want to monitor it for infection but otherwise no treatment is neccessary.

In typical Nicole fashion, I cried right there in the exam room when they told us this. Tears of relief? Happiness? Sheer joy?

Of course, had things turned out differently we would have been fine with that too. We were prepared to take whatever steps were neccessary to ensure our daughter had the appropriate treatment. We were blessed with the results we ended up with --- but hearing loss in children is a very serious condition & one that doesn't receive alot of attention.

Perhaps because at first glance it doesn't "seem" as devastating as other childhood diseases & disabilities.

But after talking to several professionals in the industry (Thank you Megan, Dessi, Mark, Rachel, and Lou!) and parents of children with partial or total hearing loss, I see things very differently.

Hearing loss can (and should) be diagnosed almost immediately. A child who doesn't hear properly can face difficult road blocks as early as 6 months when they are beginning to explore speech. It makes sense that if a child can't hear sounds properly that they will not be able to form sounds properly either.

I am not an authority on this nor will I pretend to be one. But it doesn't take a Rhodes Scholar to see the path a hearing impaired child will inevitably be forced down if left untreated.

Treatment. It seems like common sense to you and I. But I was amazed to find out how many people out there don't prioritize something like this.

An old friend of mine works with children with hearing loss in New Mexico. When we were first dealing with AK's issues my friend wrote to me. She sent me several sources of information on everything from where to learn sign language to programs that provided assistance to famnilies dealing with hearing loss. I'm amazed by all the help that is out there designed to make the world more accessible to those with hearing loss.

Another friend, here in Montana, talked to me about her experiences working with the parents of hearing impaired children.  She talked of parents who had not been proactive in dealing with their children's disability*.

(*Let me say for the record, I do not actually see hearing loss as a disability. However, when speaking of these parents in particular I feel it appropriate to use the term disability --- because by not DEALING with it and taking advantage of the plethora of resources out there ---- they are allowing hearing loss to become a disability.)

She brought me to tears when she described a mom and dad who never bothered to learn how to communicate with their child through sign language. I can not imagine being a young girl, coming home from school, and not being able to speak -- or sign --- to the people who were supposed to be my safety nets. It breaks my heart to think of children living in a home that does not prioritize something as important as communication. How difficult it must be, as a child, to do even simple things like play with friends or tell your mother that you're sad/happy/scared ... when the people you're trying to speak to don't have the tools it requires to understand what you're saying. Devastating.

It is especially sad when you come to realize that money and/or access to the neccessary resources don't have to be issues. Like I mentioned earlier, there are a vast number of resources there for the using--- many of them FREE.
On a similar note, I have a dear friend who is a speech therapist here in Montana. I was talking to her recently about this very topic.

She told me she sees quite a bit of the same thing. She is currently working in a position where she provides services to her clients for free. Well .. free to the clients. And even though it costs them nothing but their time, there are people out there who do not take it seriously enough to show up for their schedules appointments.

It boggles my mind.

Anyhow, I guess that's my tirade for tonight.

The moral of my story is this: We've all got battles to fight when it comes to our children... lessons to learn, hills to climb. But no matter which struggles are placed before us remember to love your babies. Love every part of them ... even their ears. :)  Protect them. Help them. Teach them. (( . learn from them too. )) Ask questions. Ask them again. Research/investigate. Take precautions. Take them twice. Go overboard. Do whatever it takes to make sure they have all the tools they need to make their mark on this crazy, rapidly-spinning, amazing world. Don't let them get lost in the haze.

1 comment:

  1. Hear, hear!! Uh, literally! YAY Anna Kate! I've seen the same thing w/ parents, only with CF, which can easily take a child/person's life w/o the proper care. Since it is usually diagnosed in childhood, parents are (or should be) their child's advocate when they can't be... which is so obvious when I type that... but, sigh.. it's not always, is it?