It started when she was 18 months old. She just had her 18-month-well-visit and was lagging behind a bit in her speech development.
Then she got an ear infection. And then another. And then another
By twenty-one months she hadn’t gained any new words since that 18-month-well-visit. Not one.
“Husband,” I said, “I think there’s something wrong with her hearing.”
“No there’s not, watch,” he said. “Toddler! Come here!”
And Toddler toddled towards him.
“See? No problem.”
Three more months and three more ear infections, and Toddler and I find ourselves at the audiologist and ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor.) The audiology test shows she is at the line between normal hearing and hearing loss. The ENT notices she has had a series of reoccurring ear infections. I notice that her speech is delayed enough that she now qualifies for speech-therapy, and explain it’s because she’s not hearing properly. But, the test says she’s technically normal.
“Let’s wait on it,” recommends the ENT. “Lots of times the ear infections die down during the spring and summer months. Then, if she doesn’t get more of them in the fall, we may be in the clear.”
Fall comes, and following that, winter. Toddler continues with speech-therapy, and while she progresses, she still struggles with beginning and ending sounds of words. I have her in to the doctor’s office at least six times, suspecting ear infections. Two were ear infections. The others? “Wow, there’s a lot of fluid behind her ears!” the doctor would exclaim. “But it’s not infected.”
Speech-therapy continues. About a month ago, the therapist asks, “Have you had her hearing tested?”
“Yeah, like a year ago.” I replied.
“Maybe you should have her retested,” she replies. I set up an appointment.
Finally, I bring her back the pediatrician a couple weeks ago with yet another suspected ear infection. And this time we see a different pediatrician. “Woah!” she says. “There’s A LOT of fluid behind her ear.” The pediatrician flips through her chart, noting she’s in speech therapy. “There’s no way she is hearing properly,” the pediatrician said. “She needs her hearing tested.”
Good thing I have that appointment set up.
A week ago I take her back to the audiologist. Again, she tests on the border line of normal hearing and hearing loss. But the tests for a toddler are limited. She responded to her name, and to white noise, but there’s no way to test what speech sounds she’s hearing and what she’s not. You might test an older child or an adult by asking them to repeat what you say. “Chair” you say, and then maybe they say “hair” or “where” if they’re not hearing the “ch” sound properly. But you can’t perform such a test on a two-year-old.
I talk to the ENT. “Woah!” he says. “There’s A LOT of fluid back there!”
So I’ve heard.
So we start to talk about ear tubes. We agree that, infection or no infection, she needs tubes in her ears to drain all that fluid. It will probably help with her hearing, and hopefully her speech.
And then, almost as an afterthought, he adds, “What about her adenoids? I noticed she’s very congested.”
“Yes,” I reply, “She always has a stuffy nose, always has a bunch of dried-up boogers up there.”
“Does she snore?”
“Yup! That’s how we know she’s really asleep, and not just up in bed biding her time.”
“I think we should take her adenoids out too, while we do the ear tubes.”
Apparently adenoids can also get in the way of ear fluid draining properly. Or so I’m told.
So we set up the procedure for today. We’re to arrive at the hospital at 9:00 am for ear tubes and an adenoidectomy. That means that when she wakes up there’s no sippy cup of milk. And no breakfast. And that means that the first hour of her day was one epic temper tantrum. After that first hour, she seemed to be resigned to the fact that we weren’t feeding her this morning, but she was still pissed.
But once we got to the hospital, SHE. WAS. A. CHAMP.
She played with the toys in the waiting room. When we were sent back to an exam room, she accepted the trade of her monkey jammies for the astronaut-themed hospital gown with no compunctions whatsoever.
She spent the next 45 minutes, while we waited for the anesthesiologist, playing peek-a-boo with the room’s curtain and generally entertaining herself.
She lets the nurses take her vital signs without blinking an eye.
The only time we had tears? When we parted ways as they wheeled her towards the operating room and we went to the waiting room. But were those her tears, or mine? I’m still not sure. Even though getting ear tubes put in is one of the most common surgical procedures in the country, no one likes to see their baby have surgery.
And what did we hear from the doctor when all was said and done? “She had A LOT of fluid drain from both ears. And her adenoids were HUGE. She’ll definitely start hearing better after this.”
She wasn’t hearing properly? WHO KNEW?
Lesson learned? Trust your instincts. Moms always know.
Good job, my little trouper! Hope you’ll be talking up an (understandable) storm, soon!