Sounds of silence

The toddler’s long-awaited hearing test was yesterday.

He did not pass.

I should be working at this very moment, but first I have to write this down. I have emails and messages to answer, but I can’t just yet. So please, bear with me, as I cry a bit over the keyboard and use this bloggy-blog for therapy.

I wrote last month about our concerns he has a speech delay. About how even though he is amazing at American Sign Language, he has very limited words — and very sketchy pronounciation, at that. About how the doctors blamed me teaching him sign language. About how they agreed that, yes, he is behind, and, yes, he should get checked out.

Yesterday was the big hearing test.

***

I went into it feeling pretty relaxed. I was almost certain he would pass, but figured if he didn’t, then we’d at least be closer to figuring out what was wrong. I was interested to see how they would test him, since he’s so young. I was just glad, basically, to get the ball rolling.

The technican asked if we had any concerns about his hearing, and we both sort of shrugged.

No, not really.
It’s his SPEECH that we’re worried about.
We’re just getting this checked out.
Just a precaution.
You don’t happen to know when we’ll get the speech visit scheduled? … No? OK, no problem.

We went into a small booth — me, Darling Husband, and the toddler. Darling Husband held him on his lap, and I stood behind them. The booth was hot, and had dark shadowed boxes affixed into the corners. The boxes had speakers that played sounds — high and low frequencies, I’m guessing — and then they’d light up and display a moving, noisy toy inside.

The technician instructed us to not respond by turning towards the toys, because they needed to see if the toddler would turn towards the sounds on his own. So we just stared straight ahead.

I almost (ALMOST) laughed when one of the toys lit up inside the box, because it was a crazy thing — playing cymbals or something. Combined with a Glowworm affixed to the wall that lit up in a creepy red glow — obviously it had a light bulb jammed inside its poor head — it was like being inside a tiny, hot freakshow. Or a horror movie.

I got over that, quickly, though, when I realized something even scarier.

The toddler was not responding to the noises.

While Darling Husband and I stared straight ahead, willing ourselves not to turn left and right at the different noises — buzzes and hums and whispers — the toddler stared straight ahead, too. He only looked at the boxes when the sound got especially loud, or if they lit up and the toys began crashing their symbols and spinning around.

I could see the technician through the two-way mirror, as she ran the test from another booth. Her face was serious. I saw her whisper his name into the microphone, and I heard it coming from the speakers within the boxes. The toddler did not look in that direction, and I swear, her face looked even more serious.

We got out of the booth. I knew — and I could tell that Darling Husband knew, too — that the toddler had not done well.

She explained the results. She had only seen him respond to sounds that were 40 decibels and above. “Normal” is 20 decibels.

He has — at least right now — mild hearing loss.
Mild hearing loss.
What???
As for how long he’s had it? There’s no way to know yet.

She performed another test by sticking something into his ears, while he cried and Darling Husband and I held him. I didn’t know what it was testing until she said,

“His eardrums aren’t moving.”

I was numb as she listed the next steps. She said his eardrums not moving *could* be caused by an ear infection, or a fluid build-up. I said that he recently got over a bad cold/cough, but we never suspected he had an ear infection.

However, he’s only ever had one ear infection — that we know of — and we only knew that because I’d taken him to the doctor for a bad cough … and they’d announced he had one.

He isn’t the type of kid who would tug at his ears or SEEM to have an ear infection, but I still felt horrible (again) for the possibility that he may have another.

The technican said we needed to see a doctor — either the pediatrician who referred him here, or our family doctor — to determine if he has an ear infection, and if he does, to get antibiotics for it. That’s the most important thing right now. Finding out if that’s the cause, or if there’s something else.

She said they’ll be in touch to schedule some more tests. Another step could be going to an ENT (Ear Nose and Throat doctor).

The thing that stuck with me the most was when she said, “A mild hearing loss like this would definitely explain his speech problems.”

Yes, it would, wouldn’t it?

Suddenly, something I had thought of as a very very slight possibility was becoming more of a real possibility.

I didn’t even get to mention the sign language. She didn’t ask, and I was too stunned to think to bring it up. We were just here for SPEECH concerns, so why was the hearing part turning into a nightmare?

I was overcome with the urge to run down the hall and tackle the speech therapists who were SURELY RIGHT THERE. We’ve been on your list for months — can’t one of you see us, PLEASE?

***

I remained pretty calm on the outside for most of yesterday afternoon/evening. But inside I was fluttery and nervous. I called the pediatrician about 30 seconds after we walked in from the appointment. They weren’t sure if he could see us — since, generally, you need a separate referral each time — but said they’d call back.

This morning, I was attacking the cordless phone — getting more and more worked up. I couldn’t just wait for the ped’s office to call back. I had to do something. I had to get this sorted out.

I tried calling a local family doctor who has come highly recommended by my friend E (who takes her son, T, there). They were very sympathetic, but said he had a waiting list. So I put us on the list, and moved on.

I called our current family doctor — who, unfortunately, is still near our old condo (more than an hour from our new home). They could only see us mid-NEXT WEEK, and it happened to be at the same time as my OB appointment. They are usually quite snotty at this doctor’s office, and suggested I move *that* appointment. I told them that was impossible, and that I’d just have to take him to a walk-in clinic. They couldn’t have cared less.

It was at this point that the ped’s office finally called back, and said, no, we can’t see him. You need another referral from your family doctor to come back.

I felt like crying that we CAN’T see a family doctor to get a referral, because the local family doctor has us on a waiting list and we can’t get into the current family doctor (an hour away). But I just thanked them and hung up. And then cried.

All three of us — four of us, if you count Baby Girl — have been fairly healthy, and now suddenly there might be a problem, and we can’t get into a doctor. Really, Canadian healthcare system? I *thought* you were cool!

***

So. Right. Tonight I’m taking the toddler to a local walk-in clinic. All we need is to have his ears checked for an infection — and get antibiotics if necessary — so it doesn’t really matter where we go. We just need to go.

While we ate lunch together today, just the two of us, I looked over at his ears. From the outside, they seem perfectly fine. He doesn’t seem sick anymore. Could he REALLY have an ear infection?

And then I remembered what the technician said.
That BOTH of his eardrums weren’t moving.
Both. Which means both ears.

What are the chances he has a double ear infection with absolutely no symptoms?

I keep trying to mentally prepare myself to hear that he doesn’t have any ear infections. Trying to steady myself to accept what that could mean.

I’m trying to be strong for him, and I keep falling apart.
I’m so afraid of what I’ll hear.
And what he won’t.

5 Comments on “Sounds of silence

  1. Hi Heather, I'm Lindsey's gram…we met at your baby shower. I have a friend who had a deaf child over 40 yrs ago. She had a hard time getting him diagnosed. He was too young to talk, but she knew. He had to attend a special school, but grew up to be a normal, productive guy. So hang in and take heart.

  2. A hearing test was how we learned my son has “significant hearing loss” in his right ear. I remember that room, watching him do the test with headphones that seemed impossibly huge for his small head, sounds rocketing out of them that I could hear … and he sat there. He didn't hear the sounds at all.

    He turns his left side to you when you speak to him, adjusts his hat so it never covers his left ear. He was born with fully functioning ears (at least we think so, his ENT Dr is still investigating) but then somewhere along the way, his right stopped working. That we know of, he never had an ear infection. When he was 2 he went through a brief period where he would scream if water ran over his ears in the bathtub. I attributed it to the fact that my mom, as great as she is with the kids, is not the best at giving them baths and on her recent visit she had splashed water down his face, shampoo bubbles pouring into his eyes. I thought it was memory of that mishap that brought the screams. Our ENT very gently told us we may never know what caused his hearing loss but those two weeks where the bathtub was a source of upset is always in my mind. He had no other signs of what was possibly an infection, no fever, no ear tugging. He slept well then and he continues to.

    It's really, really rough finding out your baby is slightly different than the baby you woke up with, but they are still your beloved little one. My best to you, for I do know how you feel. And you know something? Our family has a “secret language” that allows us to tell each other we love each other from across the room, and no one will know.

  3. Hey Heather,

    I'm also Lindsey's friend – seems your blog has become quite popular :). I am an Audiologist – did you see an Audiologist or a technician? The ear drum test she ran only reflects how his eardrums were moving on that day, so it may be that she caught him after a cold or an ear infection, and there might be some fluid there that is recent in nature. Just because his eardrums are not moving does not mean he has an active infection right now, sometimes fluid can remain behind the eardrums for a few months without an infection. It's really hard to say how long he has had the mild hearing loss and if it's in both ears – did she use earphones or just the speakers? If this was his first hearing test since newborn hearing screening then there are no baseline results – so don't beat yourself up too much for not knowing – this is way more common than you think. I'm sure he passed his newborn hearing test in the hospital. If he has no fever or active infection now, antibiotics aren't going to clear up fluid, they will just help an infection. Sometimes fluid, if that's what it is, will resolve on it's own in a few weeks or so. It's also really hard to say if stiff eardrums that we're found right now are causing a speech delay, because nobody really knows how long this has been going on, it could be very recent. Also, with a mild hearing loss, and the fact that he stays home with you in a quiet environment, really helps. He would still have access to most, if not all, speech sounds at a conversational level in quiet. All in all, this is just me trying to ease your mind a bit, obviously I didn't do the testing and see the results, but I figured I'd comment to help in any way I can. Will the Audiologist be seeing him in 3 months? I hope I didn't overwhelm you too much, so feel free to get my email from Lindsey if you want to chat.

  4. Thanks for the great comments! I really appreciate them.

    Jane, I'm not sure if he saw an audiologist or a technician. It seemed like a very rushed appointment, and I didn't get as much info as I would have liked. I wish he had seen you! 🙂

  5. My words probably won't bring you much comfort, but I'm thinking of you and praying as well!

So what do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: