Do You Hear What I’m Hearing?

I’ve described my son as a walking ear infection in the past. The poor pet, he seems to go from antibiotic to antibiotic, frequent flyer in the doctors office, coughing like a 50 a day smoker but a trooper throughout. I remember ear aches from childhood – there are few pains like it, and I look at him, happy and active while according to the doctor he’s suffering from a bad infection. Recently it became obvious that something would need to be done – likely grommets, and so the path to getting them done was begun. It starts with the hearing test.

Toddler Hearing Test Worries -

Advised by our GP to go private for the grommets (make use of the health insurance, skip the ridiculous HSE waiting lists), we did and received a letter stating that we needed a hearing test to be done beforehand. Grand, I said, without checking exactly what was covered by the health insurance. As far as I was concerned, there was nothing wrong with the child’s hearing, this was merely a formality, passing Go to collect the €200. A rather expensive formality at €120, mostly uncovered by insurance, but a necessary one all the same. (Think of the future nursing home. Think of the future nursing home.) At birth, he passed the test first time, he could hear perfectly. We headed out to the appointment on the other side of Cork for 9am (we got there at 8.30 having left super early to miss the non existent traffic). At 9.35 we still hadn’t been called. 9.45, we finally get called in, a very frustrated toddler happy to get out of the waiting room.

The audiologist was lovely, as was her helper. She ran a series of tests on E, involving associating sounds with lights turning on, while he was distracted with another activity. It was actually quite interesting to watch, even if waving at the stuffed animals on either side of the room was definitely a weird way to start a Thursday morning. The sounds were played at different levels, to check what he could hear, with the assumption being that when he could hear the sound he would turn to look at the stuffed animals. There were a few occurrences of him getting so sucked into the game he was playing that he didn’t care to turn. That’s what I thought anyway.

At the end of the appointment, the audiologist went through her report. She stated that in her examination she saw fluid in both ears, and both were red – not a surprise, he was on an antibiotic at the time for his ears. The hearing test was showing mild hearing loss. As she said, there is no such thing as mild hearing loss – it’s meant to be normal, so it wasn’t to be brushed off as just something small. While grommets should fix it, it’s something we definitely need to deal with sooner rather than later. All of this I was okay with, moreso because I believed that it would all be grand once we had that done.

Her comments about speech threw me a bit. Up until this appointment I was very happy with his level of speech – lots of words, understandable, quick to learn new words. She told me that he should be speaking far clearer and while his language (knowledge of words) is good, his speech is behind and will potentially need speech therapy. In particular she drew attention to the way he pronounced certain words – generally ones beginning with S being pronounced with a P. This, which I had thought was just a cute childish thing became a glaring klaxon in my mind. That’s where it’s stayed the last few days. Regardless of how much she said he’d be grand, the fact that this was something I missed has been grating in my mind. Each time he speaks now, it’s all I hear. I’m wondering just how many sounds are muffled and how I didn’t spot it sooner. In my first time encountering this motherhood thing, I had assumed it would just be something he’d grow out of, never once thinking there was another reason for it. His age was a major factor in her mentioning speech therapy – the older he gets before his hearing is dealt with, the longer the sound muffling is likely to go on, impacting his speech for longer.

The rational part of me says to cop on, he’ll be grand, we’ll get the grommets and he’ll most likely never shut up with perfect diction again. If not, speech therapy isn’t the end of the world, my brother and various friends had it as kids, and I’ll take any excuse to enrol him in my first love, speech and drama. The irrational is still there though, beating away, telling me I missed something important, that I wasn’t paying enough attention. I want to give him the best possible chance in life, to fix anything that might get in his way. That’s all.

He’s a happy, generally healthy child, who says words like “peep (sheep)” and “pees (please). This last week has wrecked my perception of these as being cute. Hopefully that will wear off, the grommets will go ahead, will do their thing and allow me to offset questioning his hearing until he’s blasting music as a teenager.

Toddler Hearing Test Worries -



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1 comment

  1. It’s so so SO not your fault. You didn’t miss anything. You heard the Ps and thought (like most of us would) “that’s a cute toddler inflection”. Because it is. You’ll fix what needs to be fixed and it’ll all be grand. Now hand back the mammy flagellation stick. Thank you.

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