A couple of months ago, Jade had a routine hearing screening at her preschool. She’d had her ears tested as a newborn, and other than a number of ear infections, we’ve never been much concerned about her ears. Which is why Michael and I were both surprised to find out one of her ears failed the test.
The hearing clinic aide suggested we book a follow-up test a month later. Why a month? Just in case Jade had some kind of cold (she did), the time would allow her to clear up.
The week before her follow-up test, Jade came down with another cold. She hasn’t been in a daycare or school setting since she was 2 and a half and it seems her immune system has to regain its hard-earned resilience. I phoned the Hearing Services Offices on the Friday before her Monday appointment and asked whether I should still bring Jade in. The secretary suggested we “play it by ear”. And I really don’t think she meant it as a pun.
We did end up going for the test on Monday. The same ear failed.
(Cute aside: Halia wanted to get the “marshmallows” in her ears, too, and the aide played along, especially since Halia had never been screened, not being born in a hospital.)(Relieved aside: her ears passed.)
With two failed tests, it was time to book an appointment with an audiologist. We saw her in the middle of November.
What I learned at that appointment was that Jade’s hearing was “fine”: that is, in the normal range. Her eardrums were moving, there was no infection, there was no accumulation of ear wax. However, there was some fluid in her middle ear. In case you don’t know it, your middle ear should really only be full of air. Since Jade wasn’t complaining of pain or discomfort, and given the two failed tests, the audiologist hypothesized that this may be a persistent situation for her.
Chronically having fluid in the middle ear can mean a predisposition for ear infections and it may mean that Jade’s hearing level fluctuates significantly with her health. It might explain why Jade’s pronunciation of words is sometimes “slushy” (because the sounds she hears are distorted). Also why she often talks so quietly (you plug your ears and talk and see what happens). Finally, it may explain, at least partially, one of her most serious developmental delays: her poor balance. Anything that requires balancing on one leg (putting on shoes, kicking a ball, walking on a balance beam, even skipping) is very difficult for her.
We saw the audiologist for another follow-up today; the tests gave exactly the same result. Jade’s still hearing in the normal range, but there’s fluid in the middle ear. It was the audiologist’s last day at the office until the end of January, so we’re booked to see her again then. But in the meantime, I’m going to see if we can get a referral to either a pediatrician or an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist.
While it wasn’t really fun to find out Jade might have a chronic hearing problem, I’m also excited. What if we manage to clear up her middle ear and her balance improves? That would be huge!
I know it’s no use berating myself, but I wish we could have caught this sooner. Jade’s first ear infection happened the day she turned one. It makes me wonder, aas her hearing been compromised ever since then? It makes me wonder, did middle ear fluid contribute to the mild speech delay she had ever before her seizures started? It makes me wonder, how many other kids with speech delays should automatically have their ears tested?
Anyway, whatever the answer to these largely unanswerable questions: hurrah for “routine” hearing tests at school!