It’s funny to look back and read that last post from only four months ago… I kept waiting for that next moment when we would hear sentences and it didn’t happen and it didn’t happen. At the back of my mind, I could hear my mother saying “but you spoke in full sentences at 14 months”. Another worry was that my daughter’s words were slightly off — she said “sha” for “shoe” and “ba” for “boo”, but when she said “mama” or “uh-oh” it was clear as a bell. What was going on?
At our daughter’s 18 month check-up, the nurse asked if there was anything that concerned me. I said that I was a bit worried about her speech development, thinking, “Oh, this is silly! Different children speak at different points…” The nurse asked if she’d had a lot of colds over the winter (she and her Dad caught every cold there was to catch) and then suggested a quick visit to the audiologist, just to set our minds at ease.
A few weeks later, we had our appointment and headed off to see the lovely Liz at Yarra Health. She looked into H’s ears and said she definitely saw middle ear infection, but we needed to look into it more to see if there was hearing loss. She explained that the machine we were about to use tested the echo inside the middle ear, which needed for there to be air in there, not just liquid, and that we should see a peak on the screen. She did the test. We saw a flat, flat line, with a tiny blip. Our daughter’s hearing was pretty seriously impaired.
Liz told us she didn’t really need to do the next test to tell us there was hearing loss that was significant, but that it would tell us more specifically where the loss was. She conditioned our girl with a loud noise off to the side and a puppet (she worked that one out quickly — she’s a smart cookie) and then ratcheted the sound right down. H’s head only turned once the sound got back up to 25db, on both sides, a loss of about 40%. She thought the liquid inside the eardrum was probably “like concrete”.
Our next move, apparently, was a trip to an ear, nose and throat specialist. Our referral to a great surgeon at the Royal Melbourne Children’s Hospital was useless: there weren’t any appointments for about three months, unless we wanted to go private. Our complication was two-fold: we were flying to the US about six weeks later and we didn’t have private health insurance (because we live in a country where you can mostly rely on the awesome public system). We called around until we found a private surgeon who could see us before we flew. Our main question was whether she could fly with her ears the way they were. His advice was no, we risked a burst eardrum mid-air, which sounded like misery for the whole family.
His recommendation was for simple surgery to insert grommets, relieving the pressure in the eardrum and allowing the liquid inside to drain. So we called the grandparents and asked for a loan and booked in for the private surgery after all. Not my favourite moment: general anaesthetic for a 19 month old, no matter how short, is awful. I held her in my arms while they put the gas mask over her face and told her to breathe in. Her eyes slowly rolled back and she started to snore and then she was completely limp. They took her from me and the next time I saw her, in recovery, she was screaming in a nurse’s arms, frantic to know where Mama was. Thank god for “extended” breastfeeding; I was able to give her instant comfort in the form of Mama’s milk.
She recovered well from the immediate physical effects of surgery. The day afterwards, she was joyfully signing “bird! bird!” every few seconds because she could hear them again. A few days afterwards, she was already saying Mama more often, and starting to try other words. Two weeks later, we were on a plane.
The change since then is phenomenal. She says “boo” and “shoe” properly now. She has also added “two” and just to diverge from the rhyme, “zebra”, “flower”, “vulture”, “book” complete with the ‘k’ on the end (that one’s new today). She’s been saying “papa” for “pasta” since about two days after the operation. It seems there’s a new word every day. She said her own name today, complete with the aspirated H at the front today. She says “Mama’s dchone” for “Mama’s phone”. She said “My dadda shoes” and pointed at his shoes. The funniest one so far sounded a hell of a lot like, “Mama, Dadda di a far”. Considering he’d just made a loud noise of a certain type, that was accurate too.
Our follow-up with the audiologist in tomorrow, eight weeks since the first appointment, if I recall correctly. Let’s see what the science says… As far as the Mama’s concerned though, it’s all good.