After A was born, on our second day in the hospital, he had a newborn hearing screen done. Apparently this is a newer practice for Manitoba — the legislation for universal screening kicked in for all babies born in Manitoba after September 1 of this year. I still wasn’t surprised to see the technician show up with the equipment, though, because in Ontario, we’ve been doing it for quite some time and we were familiar with the process from M’s birth.
One of the first things the health professional conducting the screening will ask is whether or not there’s a history of hearing loss in the family. In our family, there is — I have congenital hearing loss, and my father has hearing loss, too. In Manitoba, that immediately skipped us from the automated otoacoustic emissions test, done by placing an earphone in the baby’s ear, playing noise, and measuring the ear’s response, to the automated auditory brainstorm response, which involves placing electrodes on the baby’s head along with the earphone in the ear, playing noise, and measuring the brain response.
In hospital, A passed on the first try with one ear. With the other ear, the tech maxed out the three allotted measurements and A failed each time. That meant we had to be referred to an audiologist, but because we were in Manitoba but from Ontario, the tech referred us to another tech in Ontario instead. We visited our local health unit when A was about two weeks old and repeated the test, and although he was very close to passing, he failed four times in the same ear (we got an extra try because the electrodes weren’t quite all the way on, on one attempt).
As our local tech told us, the test is a machine, not a person, so seeing an audiologist is the right way to determine if there actually is a hearing problem, or if it’s just a matter of his ear not being clear thanks to debris or some other kind of non-issue. So, we’re awaiting another referral, this time to the audiologist — we’ll be doing a seven-hour round trip when that appointment comes through, likely around when A is two months old, which is not my idea of a good time especially in winter conditions, but that’s our closest option.
Because of the family history, and because of the failed tests, we were also put into the high-risk registry of the Ontario infant screening program, which means (as far as I know) that A will have his hearing periodically tested until he’s three years old.
While I know many parents would probably feel anxious about this, I don’t, and I suspect it’s because of my own history with childhood hearing loss. I spent years being tested and examined and wore a hearing aid for awhile, but still managed to thrive in school, and I know that if A does have hearing loss he’s getting even earlier detection and intervention than I did. I am, of course, hoping that our audiologist visit will establish that there are no problems, but if there is, I’m happy we’re on it now rather than finding out in a few years.
Have you worked through potential hearing loss with your child/children? What was the process like where you are?