Bright and early this morning, Eliza and I made our way out to the Alpharetta location of Northside Pediatric Hospital to perform Fiona’s hearing retest. Different audiologist and different equipment, a qualified second opinion.
Rather then braving a 75 minute rush hour drive, we decided to stay the prior night at Grandma and Grandpa Underwood’s house. A wise choice, as our drive was now only 10 minutes.
If you recall from my earlier post about the Hearing Test, we had both the Otoacoustic Emission (OAE) Test as well as the Auditory Brainstem Response tests rerun today. This time we were much better prepared for the long stay: bouncy chairs, “boppy pillows”, pacifiers, you name it – we were pimped out.
The test ran about 3 hours, just like last time. For the most part Fiona was cooperative, thanks to the amazing rocking skills of Mom. Fiona had to remain very still, with electrodes on her head measuring the responses received from various sound pulses generated into a small earpiece. You can see her sporting some stylish head gear (with an intriguing “Mona Lisa” Eliza smile) in the pic below:
Unfortunately our small hopes of a miraculous misdiagnosis from the original test were quickly put to rest, as the results were consistent with profound loss. We didn’t really expect anything different, but you can’t help but have that small hope…
Over the 3 hours, the audiologist patiently ran through all the frequencies in both ears and recorded virtually identical results to before: severe to profound loss in both ears.
She also ran a pulse test through the skull that tests for conductive hearing loss (hearing loss that occurs due to obstructions in the outer ear canal or bones) versus sensorineural hearing loss (hearing loss that occurs due to damage in the inner ear/cochlea). Conductive loss is usually correctable through surgical means. Sensorineural loss is not currently correctable in itself by surgical means, and is instead treated with hearing aids or cochlear Implants. Fiona was confirmed with sensorineural loss, which was as we expected.
One interesting anomaly, though, was they found slight response to low level frequencies in her right ear…the exact opposite result we got last time (left ear). Because of this inconsistency, we unfortunately need to return next week for another retest to confirm consistency. Awesome.
All in all, though, this test ran much smoother since we knew what to expect. More importantly, though, we weren’t in an emotional shock, which allowed us to ask a lot of great questions. Some things I learned:
- Hearing aids are still beneficial to babies with profound loss, even though they can not hear speech (see Fred Flintstone Teaches Us About Hearing Loss). Why? Because stimulation of the auditory nerve forestalls atrophy and readies the baby for the introduction of a signal from the Cochlear Implant.
- Reading the chart from the ABR test (see Hearing Test post), we learned the x-axis charts latency of sound received. In other words, the quicker the baby hears a sound, the further to the left you will see a jump in the graph. The audiologist is looking for those jumps to occur within certain periods of time, depending on the volume.
- Northside has done CI surgery on qualified infants less than 1 year old with great results. (1 year is the current FDA limit). The kicker is not all insurance companies cover prior to 1 year. We’ll need to check on that, but we definitely want asap so we can hit her speech centers early.
- I asked if babies with the surgery done at 1 year old develop speech indecipherable from hearing children. The audiologist responded with an almost surprised “of course” response, which was extremely comforting. One of her patients even grew up to have a distinct southern accent, not sure how i feel about that :-).
Since we are returning next week for yet another retest, Fiona did not get fitted for hearing aids today, but that will be on the docket next week. (Recall she will first need to wear hearing aids for 3-6 months before candidacy for the CI, which is the path we expect).
While we didn’t receive any miracles today, we also didn’t receive any surprises, and left more informed and confident. I’ll call that a check in the plus column.