Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Weston's Ears

If you read our last post you know that Weston had struggles after birth. His fever was so high that they gave him an antibiotic. Before giving him the drug I was required to sign a waver agreeing to give him the drug because it has been known to cause hearing loss (1 in every 10,000 cases). Because he was given this drug they were required to do a brainwave hearing test before he could leave the hospital. Which Weston passed in his left ear but failed in his right. It is actually common for babies to fail the hearing test in the hospital because of fluid stuck behind the ears etc. So from there we were sent to a hearing specialist who retested his hearing.

When we arrived at the hearing specialist he was confident that Weston would pass because 98% of the babies he retests from the hospital do. I knew something was wrong right away. Our doctor kept looking at the screen then going over and rechecking to make sure everything was hooked up right. He explained that Weston wasn't responding at all to speech level sound in his right ear and compared it to the results from his left. After that he did a pressure test to make sure all the parts of Weston's ear were functioning and that there wasn't liquid from birth stuck there. Weston passed that test which means that his hearing loss is not because of a damaged ear but is caused by nerve damage. Though all the parts of his ear are functioning because the nerves are damaged they are not sending signals to the brain so his brain doesn't register that sound is there. Of course we were the 2% that didn't pass the hearing test and the 1 in 10,000 that is affected by the antibiotic.

Once we discovered that this was not just a fluke we were sent to see a pediatric hearing specialist to see what we could do about helping him. She retested his ear to see exactly at what levels he was hearing. Ears are really complicated and I'm still learning myself but I'll give you a crash course on how it works.

Hearing test results are charted on an audiogram which measures both volume and pitch. Below is an illustrated version that kind of gives you an idea of where everyday sounds would be charted.

Weston's right ear shows a pretty flat horizontal line right on the border of severe and profound hearing loss ( around 100 dB). Meaning when he is about 50 ft away from the sound he can hear a truck, lawn mower, chain saw, motorcycle. airplane, siren, jack hammer, band, and firecrackers. Just like vision decreases overtime hearing also decreases over time. It is expected that Weston's ear will only get worse and not better. Our pediatric specialist suggested we fit him with an aid as soon as possible in order to keep the nerves working and slow down the deterioration process. So when he was 2 months old he got his first hearing aid. 

That brings us to a discussion on hearing aids. While hearing aids are great tools they do not restore perfect hearing to the ear. Hearing aids as a general rule only restore up to half of what is lost. So with his hearing aid Weston is able to hear around 50dB. As you can see in the chart that is right around where speech becomes audible. So even with his hearing aid Weston will struggle to understand conversation from his right side. The other thing that people don't realize about hearing aids is they are extremely annoying, especially in young kids. Hearing aids work like a microphone. So if Weston lays on it or puts his ear right up to something it will give feedback just like a squeaky microphone. It's also tricky to take it in and out for naps, baths, and bedtime. And because they run on batteries it will be just your luck that you forget an extra when your out for the day or on vacation and the battery dies. Also, they aren't water proof and keeping it out of a six month old's mouth is quite the challenge!!!

Ideally Weston will benefit from the hearing aid and enjoy using both of his ears. However, many people who have perfect hearing in one ear say that the artificial noise from the hearing aid is distracting and choose to just adapt to their one ear. Having hearing only in one ear can cause balance and spacial issues (which we have already started to see in Weston). Weston is a little behind developmentally because he can't balance. So he's not sitting up, crawling, rolling over, etc. He also gets really confused when he hears loud sound. When sound is made he almost always turns towards his left and continues to turn in that direction until he has located the sound. 

That being said Weston also has extra abilities and strengths. His eyes (in compensation from his ears) are extremely alert, open, and focused. He recognizes even just the slightest emotion from facial expression. He can mimic facial expressions and has a never ending plethora on hilarious expressions. He is extremely focused. He doesn't get easily distracted by sound so as long as whatever he is looking at is visually stimulating he will stare uninterrupted for hours. He also sleeps really well. We live right on the railroad tracks and even though a train rolls through our backyard in the middle of nap time Weston sleeps on. 

Right now we are trying to keep his nerves active in an effort to save his hearing by using his hearing aid. People often ask about sign. While he should be able to carry on an intimate conversation normally, group settings will be a challenge. So I am learning sign language so I can more easily communicate with him in these types of settings. 

While his ears have been somewhat of a challenge they have also been a blessing. I'm learning a skill that is blessing my life immensely that I would have never learned otherwise. Weston will also be blessed with challenges that will build his character. People often have a lot of questions so feel free to ask anything!!


  1. Jesse, I don't know anyone that could handle this situation better than you! I haven't met Rachel, but I know she's got to be pretty incredible. Good luck to you guys!

    Love, Rachael(cherry)Judd

  2. Well look at me, the first one to comment on the blog post today. Let me just say that W. Samuel Hyde has a special little place in mine and Kayla's hearts. We are very impressed with the optimism and bright outlook that you and Jesse have kept for W. Samuel Hyde. Never once having complained or been negative about the situation. I think this is a great experience not only for you two, but for the rest of the family who gets to watch and learn from your example. Thanks.

  3. What a challenge. It sounds like you and Weston are learning to cope, though; what a cheerful thing that it isn't both of his ears that are suffering.