If you haven’t read my post from last week, please check that out first linked HERE. My newest baby, Matthew, failed multiple hearing tests at the hospital after birth. It was devastating and I didn’t know what to expect. We were referred to the children’s hospital for official testing.
When Matthew was about a month old I brought him to the Children’s Hospital for his official hearing test. It was a three hour long test and Matthew needed to be asleep for the test to work properly. The audiologist placed electrodes on Matthew’s forehead and behind his ears and tiny earbuds in each of his ears. She explained to me that each time a sound was played, the computer would register Matthew’s brainwaves and that by looking at their patterns, she would be able to determine if Matthew could hear them – or not. As I held Matthew during those three hours, I tried to convince myself that I would be OK with whatever the test showed. I told myself that worst case he would get hearing aids and we would deal with it, but I also silently prayed that the test would show that his hearing was normal. Matthew slept seemingly obliviously in my arms snoring away with his tiny mouth hanging open. The audiologist had to stop and start the test a few times when Matthew’s own noisy snoring interfered with the test. The results eventually showed that Matthew was experiencing low level hearing loss.
I asked the audiologist a ton a questions and learned more about how speech is related to hearing in the span on 15 minutes than I ever thought possible. She assured me that Matthew was lucky because his hearing loss was in the lowest range. Apparently the lowest range sounds are where the vowels sit and generally if children can decipher consonant sounds, then they can fill in the missing pieces of words. She also told me that in Matthew’s case, hearing aids wouldn’t be recommended because the lowest sounds are the most difficult to amplify and if they tried, that we would probably just end up amplifying background noise instead which would be more distracting for him. She told me that school wise (when the time comes) he might just need to sit closer to the front or maybe need a wearable mic to increase the teacher’s volume. As a teacher myself, these are accommodations that I am familiar with and I was comforted that these were not major in the grand scheme of possibilities. The audiologist told me to make sure that Matthew was looking at me when I talked to him and to come back for a retest in two months to see if anything had changed. She said it was still possible that Matthew’s aural canals were still a big clogged with fluid.
Fast forward and we had to reschedule Matthew’s retest several times due to the virus. Our appointment kept getting cancelled. We finally had his retest done last week. Matthew just turned 6 months old. I was worried that he wouldn’t be as willing to sleep through the test this time but at least I knew what to expect. Except for the new virus restrictions that is…
While Matthew’s retest was finally going to happen, the virus precautions made things a little less welcoming. Matthew’s retest was performed at the hospital outpatient center this time (by my request) instead of the main hospital. When we arrived, we were not allowed to go into the building to check in and wait our turn. Instead, I was required to check in, in advance, and to call from my car when we arrived. Instead of waiting in the waiting room I waited with Matthew in my car until the staff called me back to say that they were ready for us and we could enter the building. I walked in with Matthew wearing my mask, knowing it would be required, but was stopped at the front door. Turns out, I needed to wear the mask that THEY issued me, not one I had brought with me. They also took both my temperature and Matthew’s to make sure that neither of us was sick and asked several screening questions before we were allowed past the front door.
Since Matthew is too young to wear a mask the audiologist was required to take extra precautions when it came to personal protective equipment. In addition to a mask, she was required to wear a plastic gown over her clothing, and goggles. Matthew took one look at her and snuggled closer into my shirt. I have to admit, although her speech was friendly, she did look rather intimidating. Lucky for me though Matthew did not totally freak or cry as I was told other babies had done. He was OK as long as I was holding him. I have to admit, that made me feel good. He felt safe with me as his mama!
I was a little nervous that Matthew would not cooperate and sleep during the test this time as was required since the timing of this one was during his new “playtime.” Once all of the wires and microphones were hooked up to him it took me awhile to get him to fall asleep. The audiologist warned me that if he couldn’t fall asleep within 30 minutes that she would be unable to complete the test and we would have to reschedule and come back. I held Matthew close, took a deep breath, and prayed that he would fall asleep and not sense my anxiety.
Much to my relief Matthew cooperated and not only fell asleep but slept longer and more soundly than either the audiologist or I had hoped. I’m excited to share with you that this time, Matthew passed! He is not currently showing any deficits (although the audiologist did note that his ear canals are VERY small for his age.) She recommended a retest in a year and an evaluation by an ENT just in case since Matthew’s ear canals are so small, but other than that she wasn’t concerned. To say that I was relieved is an understatement.
You may be wondering why I just shared this crazy long personal story with you this month. The answer is that I doubt that I am the only mom who this happened to. If your baby failed his or her hearing test at birth, I want you to know that there is still hope that the losses won’t be permanent and that if they are, it’s not the end of the world. I want you to know what to expect if your infant needs a hearing evaluation and that it’s not as scary as it sounds. Even though it seems like nothing is OK, you will make it to the other side and be strong enough to deal with whatever the outcome is. Hang in there mama. I see you.