Thursday, January 19, 2012

Can You Hear Me Now?

Oh, those stinky cleft palate ears.

Last year when we brought Emerson home, we knew that language and communication would initially be a big challenge. Like, how the heck am I supposed to communicate with my 3 year old daughter who doesn’t speak a word of English? And I speak approximately 4 words in Mandarin. But kids are smart. And if anyone has to learn an entire new language and culture on the fly, a young child is a pretty good candidate. They little brains are sponges at that age, and pick up language considerably faster than adults.
We had some concerns back then about Emerson’s hearing (is she ignoring us because she can’t hear us, can’t understand us, or because she’s a three year old and sometimes they ignore their parents?) But for various reasons, (her language skills, her uncooperation with translators) we were not able to accurately test her hearing. We knew from a little research and from feedback from our ENT, that most kids with clefts have ear problems--up to 80% have eustachian tube and middle ear dysfunction-- and potential hearing problems. We decided last January to preemptively put ear tubes in Emmy’s ears, to help improve any hearing loss she may have due to fluid in her ears.

Well. Whether it was the ear tubes and improved hearing, or just time and development and learning the language, Emerson’s language skills improved quickly after the tubes were placed. Unfortunately, the tubes fell out sometime this past August or September. We got 8 months out of those tubes. We had noticed last fall that Emmy has been having a little more trouble hearing. She was saying “what?” a LOT, and watching us very intently when we were speaking. She wanted the TV turned up even louder than Daddy.
Her speech is not quite what we thought it should be by now, even after having over a year to learn language. Two-year old Harper is usually easier to understand than Emerson. When I took Emmy to the school district for a speech evaluation last fall, they refused to do it because she failed her hearing screening with the school nurse.

This past November, after another failed hearing screening and a trip to a (new to Emerson) ENT, the audiologist tested her in the ENT's office and told us what we had suspected: Emerson's hearing in her right ear is barely in the "normal range", and she had about a 30% hearing loss in her left ear. Another test showed lots of fluid behind both of her eardrums. The ENT, Dr. L, told us that when her palate did not form properly in the womb, her eustacian tubes (or more specifically, the tiny muscles that keep them "open"), also likely did not form correctly, and that she will probably need ear tubes until she is a teenager. Good to know.

So. A couple of weeks before Christmas was ear tube set #2. Emerson and I loaded up at 4:45 in the morning, and headed over to the surgery center for a new set of the tubes. Praying that this improves our girl's hearing! A couple of days later Emerson and Brandon headed downtown to the big children’s hospital for a speech evaluation. This time, the speech therapist decided that Emerson could benefit from speech therapy. Her (relatively mild) speech issues do not seem to be directly related to her cleft palate, they are more likely related to hearing and language development.
A couple of weeks ago, we had her hearing rechecked at the ENT, and though her hearing is improved, she still has some mild hearing loss in her left ear, though not enough to warrent intervention (like hearing aids).

So, this semester, instead of princess dance classes, Emerson is going to see Miss Sarah at speech therapy to "play games and read books" once a week. So far she loves it, but she still asks almost daily when she is going back to princess dance classes. I think she misses having an audience. I made the mistake of telling her that she would be joining the boys on swim team this year (in April), and her face immediately lit up and and said, "WHAT?? Everyone is going to watch me swim??" Yes, Emerson. 80 kids on the swim team, but everyone will be there to watch you swim.
Sweet Emmy, we love you so, so much!


Anonymous said...

Not to worry.... Her Pappy is pretty deaf and everyone loves him...
As an added bonus when you really concentrate on what people are saying they actually think you care...