Living With Conditions Don't Worry But Don't Wait

“I’m so sorry,” said the nurse. “Your baby failed the hearing screening.”

That is what we heard minutes before being discharged from the hospital after a long three day stay.

Our three day old son failed his hearing screening.  We didn’t even know that existed because our older daughter must have passed and they didn’t even mention it.

The nurse came into the room with a somber look on her face.  She explained to me that my child couldn’t hear.  She told me that they even tried four times. FOUR TIMES!

Immediately, I couldn’t hear another word she had to say. My baby was deaf. We would need learn sign language. How would I explain this to our family? Will he be successful? Will people make fun of him? I was already stressing about the life my child would live and he was only three days old. 

The nurse left and returned and handed me a card for a local hospital’s pediatric audiology department. She explained to me while avoiding my eyes, “It’s ok. He’s ok. He’s perfect. He probably doesn’t even have a hearing loss and, likely, isn’t deaf. LOTS of c-section babies have residual fluid and that’s probably the issue. Call this number and make a follow up appointment with them for another screening. But, really, don’t stress about it and don’t worry.”

While wiping my tears, I really heard what she said. “DON’T WORRY.” Whew. Ok. She was in the medical field and she must know. I didn’t worry. I shoved the phone number to the audiologist’s office so deep into my bag and forgot all about it.

I found it, six weeks later, at the bottom of the bag where I put all the other unimportant papers. I called the number and made an appointment. They had room right away. After a two-hour hearing screening, which we didn’t worry about, the audiologist came back in with the results. Our baby had a profound loss. PROFOUND. It was considered a congenital loss, meaning he was born with it.

How could that nurse tell me not to worry? I wasted all this time “waiting for the fluid to drain”. If I only hadn’t waited. I wish she had said, “Don’t worry, but don’t wait.”

Although we waited for a follow up screen, my son was fitted for bilateral hearing aids by ten weeks of age. When he turned six months, he had a language evaluation and another hearing test. These assessments revealed that he did not have access to the speech banana and his hearing aids were not working for him.

When he turned twelve months old, we made the decision to have him bilaterally implanted with cochlear implants. With extensive therapy and a lot of work at home, our son was discharged from speech at 3 years old. He was assessed and the results showed he was within normal range for speech development when compared to peers with normal speech development. He is in a general education classroom with hearing peers and, often, talks more than they do! He has learned to advocate for himself and embraces his differences.

If the newborn hearing screening had not been available to us, we would not have known about his hearing loss at all. I do wish the nursing staff had delivered the message in a different way, but I am so thankful that we were able to provide him with early intervention for a successful outcome.

By Michelle Thomas

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