Sunday, July 1, 2012

Hear me out...

Three years ago before our Lach was born I had an appointment with a mid-wife to discuss a few things about the birth and our stay in hospital. At the time she mentioned that all babies have a Healthy Hearing screen within the first few days to rule out any hearing issues from birth. I remember pushing for Lach to be on the follow-up program given my family history of hearing loss, even though we weren't the 'typical' family loss they would flag for follow-up. At the time my mum, some of her siblings, one of my first cousins and a second cousin had been affected by hearing loss from birth, to varying degrees. It was the second cousin which raised my concern - he was only a year older than Lachie but was born with moderate loss in both ears. My concern was that it had progressed that far down the family line.

Fast forward 3 years and Lach passed his hearing tests every 6 months. Big sigh of relief. Each test, I would go in with heart pounding, wondering if he would do okay - and generally he did. His last test was two weeks ago and at the time William was also due to have his first follow-up test, having passed his newborn screen with flying colours. As we were at a private audiology practice, I made an appointment there for Will to be tested last Thursday and would cancel my appt at the public hospital when we were advised of it.

Thursday came and we went through the routine of the hearing test for kids under 3, which involves sounds being played through a speaker and if he reacted to the sound, Will would be treated to a puppet show. These tests have two audiologists present and both have to agree that the child hears the sound to receive a 'pass' for that frequency. Will missed a few but seemed to do okay - I put it down to him being tired.

Then the bombshell was dropped.

The lovely audiologist, Lisa, explained carefully that Will's results showed he could have a mild hearing loss. He could hear sounds at high and low frequency, but the mid range sounds showed a mild loss was possible. I couldn't believe it. We were supposed to be going to this test, he was supposed to pass, I would give him a cuddle and we would go home. Easy. Instead, Lisa suggested we do a follow-up test asap (asap more for my stress levels than anything) and she offered to come in the following day, on her day off, to test him. I nodded, scared that if I opened my mouth the tears would start. We managed to leave the surgery with our follow-up appointment card in hand and I drove halfway home before the tears fell.

I honestly believed the test was wrong. I hadn't really noticed anything wrong (don't all boys have that selective hearing issue??!!) and prayed that the next day would reveal it was all a mistake.

We returned the following day, with hubby meeting me there. The test was repeated and the same results came back. She did another test that wasn't relying on Will's physical reaction - same result. It looked more and more possible that Will had a mild hearing loss.

Lisa started to explain what happened next while I made a serious dent in her tissue box. The words 'hearing aids', 'ENT surgeon' 'Hearing Australia' all flashed past but all I could do was look at my little cherub and wonder what went wrong. And how did I fail him so badly.

Apparently the issue was in his inner ear which meant the damage was permanent and couldn't be reversed. However as the issue was picked up before he was 1, we were able to act quickly to ensure his speech development wasn't affected or delayed. He can hear us speak and can hear most sounds / letters of the alphabet. But there was a small collection that he couldn't hear as well. Lisa also explained the result indicated the level he could hear in his best ear - which means the other could be the same or worse.

The next hour was a blur - we had an appointment made for us with an ENT (I believe to discover what caused the loss) and an appointment request with Hearing Australia who would assist us with hearing aids. We would also have support from Healthy Hearing and have a range of therapists to assist us if needed, namely counsellors and speech therapists.

The bottom line is - by acting on this right away, it would mean our little man would live as normal a life as possible. By the time he reached school age, there was no reason why his speech wouldn't be up with the rest of his peers.

This was 2 days ago. I have spent much of that time alternating between cuddling my little man, researching childhood hearing loss and crying, wondering how much his life would really be affected.

Kids can be cruel and so can adults. I guess the lessons for both of us is educating Will in how to deal with the comments, remarks, bullying etc that he may face in years to come. My biggest fear is that I won't always be able to protect him when he needs it the most.

So this is our challenge. I am sure the coming weeks and months we will learn so much about this and by his first birthday he could be sporting some new headgear. This is now going to be a part of his life and ours.

We shall see what the week brings us...

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