Friday, November 20, 2009

Our First Visit to the Booth

By the time we made it to the audiologist's booth at Children's Hospital, I had already come to terms with some level of hearing loss. Or maybe not. The thing was, I didn't understand hearing the way I do today. In the time between scheduling the appointment and having it, there was a considerable amount of family discussion.

"Well, she heard THAT," we'd say of some noise. She'd turn her back and I would call, "Julia." She wouldn't even flinch. That was my major sign.

The night before the appointment, I had a heart-to-heart with my husband. I told him that if she could hear normally then we had big problems. Julia was engaged and interested in a lot of things. Talking wasn't one of them. For a year of speech therapy in our home there had been little gains, but on the night before our diagnosis, I felt like I was banging my head off of the wall. She had become completely disinterested.

Julia sat on my lap in the sound proof booth. Our audiologist went into the other room with all of her gadgets and played whirling whistles over speakers. They were very loud in the beginning. When Julia turned toward the speaker that was making the sound, she was rewarded with a little mechanical character that lit up and did a dance.

As the sounds got quieter, I got a heavy feeling in my stomach. She's failing pretty bad, I thought.

But even then I had strange conflicting feelings. She was just a baby (in a month she'd turn 3-years-old). Maybe she just didn't like the dancing bear. My brain couldn't choose which disability I preferred for my daughter: hearing loss or that other thing. The other thing being whatever was keeping her from learning to talk. But maybe there was no other thing, and that was what I held on to.

About now I would like to go back and shake the past me. I would tell her it will be okay, this is going to work out. But that day, the whole thing seemed like it was falling apart. I thought she was healthy and she wasn't. I thought I had done a good job being pregnant and I didn't.

The audiologist leaned into the microphone and told me she was coming over to our room.

I took a deep breath and very specifically warned myself not to cry. "I found a moderate hearing loss in both ears," the audiologist said. There was a lot more information that day. She used little rectangular block headphones to transmit the sound directly to the nerves. She could tell that this is a nerve problem, not some little tube that was too small in my baby's ear. I was told that it is not uncommon for a newborn to pass a hearing screening, like mine did, and then find something later.

She reassured me that we'd found it sooner rather than later. That intense speech therapy would catch her up. I had gone inconsolable and was trying to hide my tears in a tissue.

I couldn't even talk to my husband on the drive home. Saying it out loud made me weep so badly, I thought I would probably wreck the car. I whimpered that I would just talk to him when I got there.

The coming months were tough. We scheduled an ABR test and had to cancel it due to an ear infection. In an Auditory Brainstem Response test, they sedate the child and play a series of clicks while measuring brain activity. It is the definitive hearing test before they will dispense hearing aids for a child. In the wait for the ABR we were still debating the results of the booth test. I was pretty confident, since I was there, that the audiologist knew what she was talking about.

The results were confirmed. As Julia has grown, she does more and more "big girl" testing in the booth. She's identifying pictures to show how well she can discriminate sounds. She's still listening to those whistles, but now she feeds zoo animals. "Give the banana to the monkey," we'll prompt her.

She's not great in the booth. I've never seen another kid do it, so maybe she's a rock star in there. But she gets bored with it. I feel incredibly nervous watching her, just hoping that nothing turns up to indicate a progressive loss. But that is the power of the booth. Every six months it gives us good news, or not. We go back on Monday and hope for more good news.


  1. My son had to go in the booth one time. His speech issues were not related to hearing loss so we have not had to go back. I remember how scary that was! I, personally, think that it is amazing that she does well in the booth at all. I thought it was kind of scary AND boring. I can't imagine having to go through testing every 6 months. Thank goodness you were able to get her diagnosed so early!

  2. We did the son had hearing loss in both ears due to infections and such. He also had speech therapy for a year. But, now he never shuts up...he is 5. Just keep working with her!! New Follower!

  3. I can't imagine how stressful that must have been.

    I hope Monday's visit is good news!

  4. My brother had a 'moderate' hearing loss in one hear and a 'slight' hearing loss in the other. This was not a birth defect, but a side effect of normal childhood ear infections. They were very mild... my normal childhood ear infections hurt like crazy and my parents always got me to the doctor fast and put me on medication and my hearing is in the 'normal' range. My brother's ear infections, being so mild, did not hurt and were inevitably diagnosed when he was taken to the doctor for something else.

    My parents thought he had a speech impediment, and that was when his hearing loss was diagnosed. After time with a speech therapist and some training to use the hearing he has, he now appears entirely 'normal' and his hearing has actually improved somewhat as his inner ear has matured.

    I'm not trying to promise a miracle. I am just sharing a story.

  5. I live in the "booth" as an audiologist. It's interesting to hear your perspective, but it sounds like you have a good one. By the way, we know your heart is's ok to cry! When I worked peds I cried with the moms all the time :)

  6. My 5yr old hearing impaired so goes every 3 months to the "booth" and his next visit is Thursday. He is pretty good for the first 10 min or so but gets bored after that. I must say his audiologist is very good wih him and the more he goes the more he understands that he just has to get through the session so the less he fusses the faster he an get through the session and get a lollipop. (he knows where they hide the sweets and now helps himself when his done) So good luck and thanks for the blog!

    South Africa

  7. My little guy is only 2, but boy does he get bored in the booth! They're trying to get him to do play audiometry, but he just drops the blocks on the floor. He is, however, a huge fan of the puppets in the lit-up boxes! He's got a moderate hearing loss, too (but failed the newborn screen with a milder loss, so we knew from birth).

  8. Wow, that's pretty scary. My two month old just passed the infant test, and I was so relieved. I feel for you


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