Like all newborns, Riley had an ABR (auditory brain stem response) hearing test before he was discharged from hospital. This involves headphones being placed over baby’s ears and electrodes placed on their head to measure the brain’s response to sounds and he passed with flying colours, but as with most premature babies who require NICU care he is at greater risk of hearing loss for several reasons:
*Prematurity – He was born at 30 weeks gestation and typically, premature birth (before 37 weeks gestation) is a risk factor for hearing loss.
*Low birth weight – He was born weighing 2lb 13oz and typically, babies born weighing less than 5lb 8oz (2500g) are at increased risk for hearing loss.
*Medication – During his stay in NICU, he was prescribed an antibiotic called gentamycin for a suspected infection and this medication can cause harm to a baby’s ear.
*Jaundice – He was diagnosed with jaundice at 2 days old and underwent an intensive course of light therapy. This condition is known to increase a baby’s risk for hearing loss.
Even though he passed the first hearing test, we were informed that he would need to be screened again at 9 months as he was considered to be in a high risk category for hearing problems. So, with that in mind, last week we headed off to the clinic for his test and i must admit i was feeling slightly anxious, not because i had concerns about his hearing or anything but having heard a few things from other parents i was pretty sure Riley would not do what was required.
The appointment started out with the audiologist having a look at his ears and conducting a pressure test to ensure that the ear drums vibrate correctly. Everything was fine with that, so then it was time for the hearing test. As Riley is still not able to sit on his own, he sat on my lap and earphones/electrodes were placed in his ear. There came problem number 1, i mean honestly, what baby is going to calmly sit still with foreign objects poked in their ears? Not mine that’s for sure, his hands were on the move and these ‘things’ were coming out whether we liked it or not. So, i was asked to hold his hands and pin them down by his sides. There came problem number 2, anyone that knows my son will know that he NEVER sits still, his arms are constantly moving and his legs are always kicking about so keeping him in this position was a challenge in itself.
Now the idea of the test was that they would play a sound and Riley should look in the direction of the sound where he would be rewarded with a puppet that lights up. The audiologists told me that they would spend some time conditioning him to do this but i was skeptical to say the least. Each time the noise played, she would jump up and rush over to the puppet making a big deal about it and encouraging Riley to look at it. He didn’t. She tried for quite a while but by this point he was becoming agitated and although he would look on occasions, he was generally not interested in paying any attention to the puppet at all. Eventually he got a clear reading on one frequency but they needed more so decided to try a different approach.
For this second attempt, the first audiologist sat in front of us whilst the second one sat behind us. The idea now was for the lady behind to shake a variety of ‘noise makers’ either side with the intention that Riley should turn his head to look at the sound or respond in some other way. Of course, to do this test (and the first one) they gave him a toy to distract him. So all the while this lady is ringing these bells etc. Riley is going to town on this toy, banging it with his hands, chewing it and babbling away. My instinct was to take the toy away so he could pay attention to the sounds but i restrained myself. After all, there must be a reason for that kind of stupidity right?
Anyway, the second test was a bit more successful in that Riley responded sometimes but on the whole he was far too busy playing with the toy. The results? Inconclusive! Surprised? I wasn’t. They’ve requested that we return to the clinic in 3 months time for a follow up appointment with the hope that Riley will be in a better ‘frame of mind’ for the puppet test. We’ll see how that goes but i wouldn’t put money on it being any more successful.
Has anyone else experienced this problem and do have any advice on how i can handle the situation better next time?