I went away for a few days to Toronto for a conference and when I got back my husband commented on how our four year old daughter wasn’t listening to what he was saying, and how we should get her hearing checked. I laughed it off. I thought he was complaining that she wasn’t being obedient and had “selective” hearing, not that she couldn’t actually hear him.
However, within the next day or so I started to realize we had a real problem here. Grace genuinely wasn’t hearing things we were saying. She wasn’t replying to “Would you like chocolate ice-cream and a puppy dog?” type things, and not just “Would you please clean your room and get those darn toys off the floor?” type things. I noticed she seemed less likely to hear low-tones. For example, she was more likely to hear me when I was speaking softly then her father. I also noticed that she was talking in an extremely loud voice, almost constantly yelling.
How had I not noticed this before? Had it been something that developed so gradually that it flew under my radar? Or was it a sudden thing that happened while I was out of town?
I was filled with dread that something might be seriously wrong with my daughter’s hearing. I made an appointment to take the girls to see our family doctor. Now, both girls have had runny noses pretty much non-stop since Grace started school. I have lost count of the number of back to back colds they have had since the second week of September. Every time it seems like one of their noses is finally drying up, it starts again! Normally I don’t take my kids to the doctors because of a cold, but after six weeks of colds I felt it was time for a visit. The doc took a look in Grace’s ears and said they looked fine, but with her being congested she might have a build up of liquid. The doc wasn’t phased at all by the non-stop snot. She ordered seven days worth of antibiotics for both girls, and a hearing test for Grace scheduled to take place after she’d finished the meds.
So we waited for the big day, the take Grace to the hospital to get her hearing checked-out day. And in the meantime I noticed her hearing seemed to be improving. Was it just my imagination? No, it definitely seemed like it was getting better. Oh, man, I worried, now I am going to feel so silly getting this hearing test done.
My husband took the morning off work to drive us over to the hospital for the hearing test. The woman who checked Grace’s hearing was so nice. She put us at ease, and explained that four years old is a great time for a routine hearing check. I honestly haven’t a clue if she was a doctor, or a med tech, but she was obviously someone who cared for and understood kids. Everything about the experience was pleasant. It was one of the most kid-friendly medical experiences I’ve ever been through.
First we were left to wait in a small pediatric waiting room, which had a TV showing the Backyardigans. After a few minutes there we moved to the testing room, where –let’s call her the audiologist, since as I mentioned I’m not sure what her actual title was– the audiologist got down on the floor to say hi to my daughter. There was a lovely play area set up with a giant doll house, some trucks, and other toys. The audiologist invited Grace to play and asked her questions, “Isn’t it silly there is a swing in this house? do you think they like the bed better?” A fantastic ice breaker for putting my four-year old at ease, but also, I’m aware, a great way to figure out if my daughter could hear her at all, and what her language development is like.
From there Grace was directed to sit in a big office chair. The audiologist let her pick her own from a big box of pink, blue and yellow disposable ear tips (Grace went for the pink one of course). She explained how she was going to use a special machine to let Grace’s ears draw a picture. “Ok, look here and you are going to see your ear draw a mountain.” Or, not. Grace’s left ear drew a small hill, not in the centre where the audiologist explained it should be, but off to the side. Her right ear pretty much flat-lined. At this point the audiologist explained that our daughter definitely has fluid in her ears. She hooked her up to another machine to see how bad the blockage was. Grace sat patiently and “listened to silly music” as the machine fed sound into her ear and recorded the feedback. Again the audiologist said it wasn’t able to get through on the one side at all.
Then she took Grace into a soundproof booth and asked her some question. I looked through the glass window and saw Grace seated at school desk, it looked like she was moving coloured blocks around on a peg board. Then the audiologist came out of the booth and spoke to Grace over a speaker. She covered her mouth so that lip reading wouldn’t be an option, as she asked my girl to point to various items on a big full-colour chart. “Do you see a sailboat? Can you find the ice cream?” The audiologist was fiddling with knobs, taking readings, and presumably lowering and raising the volume her voice was being projected at.
She let Grace out of the booth and told us we were done. She showed us the chart and assured us that our daughter’s hearing was in the normal range. The audiologist backed up what my mother’s intuition had been telling me, she was having problems but is on the mend. There is still fluid in her ears right now, but it should be clearing up.
The audiologist went on to explain how children’s ears aren’t done developing at this age, and they don’t drain the way an adult’s ear would. She told us that the problem isn’t with fluid in the ears, but if that fluid should become infected. She warned us that with winter approaching, and presumably more colds on the way, Grace may start to have problems again. If it doesn’t clear up, if my daughter ends up with multiple ear-infections, always being on medicine, that sort of thing, then they would end up putting tubes in her ears to drain the fluid.
I thought I’d share this so that you guys would know:
- It’s important to get your kids hearing checked out when they are around four or five.
- The hearing test is quick, simple, and according to my daughter “Lots of Fun!!”
- Fluid in the ears is pretty common at this age, and can lead to temporary hearing issues.
- Those temporary hearing issues likely need to be monitored, but are no cause for panic.
What about you folks? Have you taken your kids to get a hearing test? What was your experience like?