Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hearing Update: Ordering Aids

At our last appointment, Blair's audiologist suggested that we try bilateral hearing aids to address Blair's mild hearing loss. She's been testing at the mild loss level consistently with and without her loaner aid since we began the booth testing a while back.

From my research, this is what I understand: even though Blair tests at a mild loss, hearing aids aren't necessarily the best treatment for her because of the Auditory Neuropathy. There is a chance that we could be amplifying "static" and not helping her understand speech. We won't know that for a while though, so we have to just go with whatever seems to be the best -- and right now the best option appears to be bilateral hearing aids. The audiologist wanted to consult with an Auditory Neuropathy specialist before making a final decision.

About a month after they sent Blair's file to Dr. Linda Hood at Vanderbilt, Blair's audiologist still had not heard from her. I realized that Dr. Hood travels a lot, but I decided to send her an email. I thought that adding a parent and some history to a random patient file she received by fax might make a difference -- I'm sure she gets patient files quite often. I gave her a quick introduction and attached the running list of language that I keep for Blair. I don't know if my email connection idea actually worked or what, but she emailed me back the very next day and told me that she was going to look at Blair's file and get in touch with Blair's audiologist. Yay!

After some phone tag, the two finally got together. Dr. Hood was very interested in Blair's case because Blair seems to be on the really good end of Auditory Neuropathy. Dr. Hood was very impressed with her language capabilities, and she confirmed the suggestion of bilateral hearing aids. She and the audiologist both think that we should try to give her access to as many sounds as possible, as often as possible, so they have also decided to add an FM system to use in the car and noisy environments. The FM system is design-integrated into the aids that Blair will get, so it should work seamlessly with them.

We're planning on ordering the Phonak Nios Micro. It is a really small pediatric hearing aid that looks very similar to the ones we have now. I'm going to post pictures of both of them so that we'll have them. Hearing aid technology changes so often, so I want to be able to see how they've changed when we look back. These are both digital aids.

This is what Blair has right now as a loaner. It's an Oticon Vigo Pro. This aid came out in spring of 2008, and I think it may have already been replaced by a newer model. Blair's loaner aid just broke tonight when I was opening the battery door to turn it off. I hope the tube's breaking off is covered under "normal wear and tear"!

This is her actual aid with pink ear mold.

This is the Nios Micro. It also goes behind the ear, and the ear mold will attach to the tube. The Nios Micro comes in tons of colors including pink, purple, giraffe, and zebra. I think we're going to stick with something neutral, since that's what we're used to. Blair can choose a color later when she gets new ones in a few years.

I will say that there are many people who are around Blair who think that she is developing perfectly normally and does not need hearing aids. However, none of us is an audiologist, so we're going to trust the expert opinions and try the aids. They have assured me that the hearing aids will not damage her hearing in any way. That is important to me because Blair won't be able to tell us how much she actually hears for a while yet -- and if the aids are an improvement. We'll see. The consistent testing should tell us that the audiologists are right. However, they also say that Blair is probably not hearing "s" or "f," but Blair will repeat and make both of those sounds. She can tell you what the snake says, and "off" is her favorite thing to say after "mama, mama, mama, mama, mama...." Who knows. Auditory Neuropathy is frustrating. (I'm not trying to complain. I do realize though that there are things that people deal with that are a whole lot more difficult than a little hearing loss.)

 We are just happy the Lord blessed us with this precious thing!