Monday, November 17, 2014

Raising a Child with Hearing Loss: Getting Hearing Aids


I am mother to a three-year-old who wears hearing aids.  It's not unusual for people to stop me when I'm running errands with my son and get asked, "What's he wearing in his ears?"  I'll explain he's wearing hearing aids and the next question we often get is, "Can't they fix that with surgery?"


About this Series

I'd like to share with you the story of what it's been like these first three years, raising a child with mild moderate sensorineural hearing loss.  It's been a long but educational journey, so I'm breaking it up into the following posts:
Part 1: Detection in Newborns
Part 2: Getting Hearing Aids - this post
Part 3: Support and Resources
Part 4: Developing Language and Communication
Part 5: Speech Therapy

Note: I am not an audiologist, speech therapist, or any sort of professional with training in hearing.  I am just a mother sharing my story of raising a child with hearing loss.  I am including references throughout my posts for those who wish to look up more information on hearing loss!

Types of Hearing Loss

After our newborn son failed the basic hearing screening, we were asked to come in for some extensive hearing testing.  We ended up going in for two different sessions, all conducted while our newborn son was asleep.  There are several kinds of tests that can be given, and our son was given two common tests that are given to newborns, who obviously cannot communicate directly with us, and therefore, need to be administered tests that do not require an observable response.  If you want to know about what types of tests are administered on infants, check out the link.

Once the tests were done, we were told what kind of hearing loss our son had.  Hearing loss can be characterized into three types: (1) conductive, (2) sensorineural, and (3) mixed hearing loss.  Our son was diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss, which cannot be corrected by surgery, so our best solution had to be hearing aids.
To summarize the three types of hearing loss:
  • Conductive hearing loss is associated with the functions of the outer or middle ear.  This type of hearing loss is due to the failure of sound waves to reach the inner ear through the outer and/or middle ear.  Many types of conductive hearing loss in children can be treated medically or surgically.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss results from damage to the inner ear or cochlea.  This usually results not only in a loss of loudness but also a loss of clarity (think of hearing when you're underwater).  Sensorineural hearing loss can range from mild to profound and can be unilateral (one ear) or bilateral (both ears).  Medical or surgical interventions are generally not able to correct this kind of hearing loss.  Cochlear implants may be effective.
  • Mixed hearing loss is a combination of the two above.  This type of loss may require both medical treatment and amplification.

Getting Fitted for Hearing Aids

Our son's hearing loss was confirmed and quantified by the time he was a month old.  Early detection is very important, which is why newborns are tested as soon as possible.  Just to give you an overview of all the pieces that fell into place after our son's hearing loss was confirmed, here is the timeline of the next steps, including getting fitted for hearing aids.
  • 0-1 month old - hearing loss confirmed
  • 3 months old - contacted by our state's early intervention program and assigned a contact per Part C of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).  Weekly meetings with our contact begin for education and support of our son's hearing disability
  • 4 months old - met with audiologist to get fitted for hearing aids
  • 5 months old - received hearing aids, shown how to put them in, given tips on how to keep them in.
As you can see, it took some time before our son actually started wearing his hearing aids.  Although infants aren't talking yet, they are taking everything in with their five senses, and if they don't have a way to hear 100%, think of all the experiences they are missing.  Their brains are already starting to take in language, and if they can't hear, they are missing a key part of their development!
Our son's audiologist and his first set of hearing aids at five months old.
The entire audiology support team: technician, two audiologists, and my son (at nine months old).

Next Steps

In my next post, I'll talk about the support and services that we received to aid us in helping our son develop despite his hearing disability.  In the United States, the Individuals with DIsabilities Education Act (IDEA), ensures services to children with disabilities.  Through Part C of IDEA, we were assigned support and services, through which our son received aid key to his development.  As his parents, we received information and education, which I will also share with you.

Feel free to ask questions in the comment section!  You can also email me at supersmartmama@gmail.com if you'd like to ask questions outside of the blog.


10 comments:

  1. These are great posts about your experience and very educational. Your son is so cute! It's wonderful there are support services available ;)

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    1. Karen, thanks for reading and commenting. I realized I have this great experience that I *must* share with other parents!

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  2. I love this series and I am so excited to read this post! My son will be waking up any minute now so I wanted to quickly say thank you for writing this and sharing your experiences :) I'll be sharing this on all of my social media platforms :)

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  3. I had read your first post but I never went back and commented. I'm so glad you are sharing your experiences. I know I've learned a lot and I'm sure that others in the same situation appreciate hearing your story as well. Thank you for sharing about your son!

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    1. I am so glad that others are finding this information helpful - awareness is part of the reason I'm doing this.

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  4. Thank you for sharing this! I don't see myself having children for a few more years but this information is so valuable for anyone who is having/eventually wants to have kids. :)

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  5. Clicked over from SITS Girls. I'm so glad you are sharing this. My major in college was Education of the Deaf and Hearing Impaired. A lot has changed since I graduated over 20 years ago, but the questions seem similar. Thanks for putting the education out there.

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  6. I guess it would be somewhat difficult to raise child with hearing loss. Looking at the positive side of this, it would be a neat experience to have a child that can look up to you. Another positive thing is that you can teach yourself how to communicate with that child.

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