Hearing Test, April 2013

Why do I always get nervous attending the hospital for Asa’s hearing tests?!!

The old familiar ‘sicky stomach syndrome’ reared its head again as I drove to UHW, even though Jon and I suspected Asa’s hearing had improved. Walking in to the clinic, I was greeted by one of the audiologists who remembered Asa by name, immediately putting me at ease. Three minutes later we were called through to the testing room.

This time, the audiologists wanted to test Asa’s hearing without the use of the softband bone conductor, so they could build up a picture of the exact nature of his hearing loss. Today, he responded to sounds at 45 dB (decibels), which was the same as the last time in January. The difference between the two tests was that in January, Asa had worn his softband and today he didn’t. This shows that there is some improvement, however small, in Asa’s hearing. Normal speech is around 55 dB, although some speech sounds are quieter, such as ‘s’, ‘sh’, ‘th’, ‘f’ and higher in frequency. In other words, at the present time, Asa is responding to most sound levels and mid-range frequencies. Jon and I ‘test’ him at home regularly – one of us stands behind him, out of sight, and whisper ‘s’ or ‘sh’ and watch Asa’s reactions! He’ll be getting fed up of us sometimes. In fact, sometimes he doesn’t even respond to loud calls of ‘ASA’ – we think he’s protesting our amateur testing! :-)

The tymp test also showed his left ear is currently free of congestion (glue ear), but the right ear still remains congested although there may have been a tiny improvement. Glue ear can fluctuate though, particularly in Winter months. However, for now, we are praising God for these small improvements.

Asa’s next hearing test is the morning of July 16th.

Prayer points:

1. Praise God for the improvement in Asa’s hearing!

2. Pray that Asa’s hearing will continue to improve, that the glue ear completely resolves.

3. Pray that Asa’s speech will not be negatively impacted by his hearing loss.
(Other factors may affect speech too, so please join us in praying for Asa’s speech in general, that he would have good muscle tone to form the correct shapes and would be able to effectively communicate with everyone and be understood).

4. Pray that Jon and I would learn Makaton effectively and put it in to practice – we’re on a course in May – I’m excited!

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Thank you so much for your continued prayers for our little family :-)

The Softband

This is Asa, rocking his softband bone conductor hearing aid (we tend to just call it a softband for short!). He got it on Monday 12th November 2012. I haven’t been able to write about it until now…

Asa softband

To be honest, it was difficult to accept his hearing loss in the beginning, and then when he had the band fitted last week, I felt physically sick driving to the hospital – in fact I cried most of the way. I prayed that Jon would surprise me by waiting at the hospital for me, that he would be able to get the time away from work. But alas, I was alone with my boy, pretending I was cool as the proverbial cucumber…

I knew I was going to struggle, and I knew I was being silly… However, one week on and we now accept that this is a part of him – at least for a short while until his ears are a little bit bigger to have conventional hearing aids. Hopefully he can have little blue ones in support of Cardiff City FC – his daddy’s favourite team! I’d quite like him to have pink glittery ones, but somehow I don’t think Asa will thank me for that when he’s bigger!

Asa has a moderate bilateral conductive hearing loss. I know, it’s a bit of a mouthful!

–  ‘Bilateral’ means the hearing loss is in both ears. Unilateral would mean a one-sided loss.

–  ‘Moderate’ is self explanatory really; there are four levels of deafness – mild, moderate, severe and profound, each level referring to the lowest decibel a person can hear. The audiologists can tell that at the moment he struggles to hear high pitch quiet sounds, such as: ‘s’, ‘th’, ‘f’, ‘sh’. We think it’s amazing really that they can tell this already!! Praise God for advances in technology and the advancement of science (science and God aren’t in opposition but that’s another topic!).

–  ‘Conductive’ means that nerves seem to be working fine and it is ‘glue ear’ which is stopping the sound waves passing through the ear effectively. The audiologist did a tympanometry test which showed the ear drums were not able to move freely to conduct the sound effectively to the three little bones in the middle ear (the stapes, incus and malleus), which suggests a build up of fluid in the middle ear. Most children with ‘glue ear’ will grow out of it around the age of 6 or 7; however, children with Down’s syndrome tend to grow out of it later and a few never do. People with DS tend to have smaller nasal passageways and Eustachian tubes in the ear, so are more prone to conditions like ‘glue ear’ as well as respiratory illnesses.

Ear diagram

Above is a diagram of the whole ear, taken from www.patient.co.uk. Asa’s ‘glue ear’ is in the middle ear, so between the ear drum and the cochlear. If the softband aid or the behind the ear conventional aids aren’t effective, then other options could include grommets or eventually T-tubes.

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We are praying that even though Asa is only little, that this early hearing intervention will help in developing effective speech in the coming months and years. Only time will tell, so we’re not worrying about it right now… (well, we’re trying to leave it all in God’s hands, but those who know me well will know how much I can worry!). For those of you who wish to join us in praying for Asa’s hearing and speech development, let Jon or I know :-)

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Some info for you on Bone conduction hearing aids, taken from the NHS Choices website:

“Bone conduction hearing aids are recommended for people with conductive hearing loss or for those who can’t wear a more conventional type of hearing aid. Bone conduction hearing aids vibrate in response to the sounds going into the microphone.The part of the hearing aid that vibrates is held against the bone behind the ear (mastoid) by a headband. The vibrations pass through the mastoid bone to the cochlea and are converted into sound in the usual way. They can be very effective but can be painful to wear for long periods.”

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Asa 17 weeks

This photo was taken by Sian Hampson. We adore this baby’s smile!