Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Do you hear what I hear?

A few months ago we received a call from the local Hearing and Balance clinic to get Mirabel in for a hearing screening. Apparently hearing loss is very common among babies with Down syndrome and though she passed her newborn hearing screen, they like to check again at 9 months old.

I took her in on a rainy day an fidgeted as they poked and prodded her with different implements in her teeny, tiny ears to measure how well her ear drum moves. The technician noticed some blockage and fluid buildup in her canals. We then sat in a sound booth while together. Mirabel wore some stylish headphones while the technician spoke into a microphone that registered on either the left or right side, then gauged her response. Mirabel would turn her head toward the sounds and be rewarded with a light-up, spinning Winnie the Pooh or Tigger.

Turns out, Mirabel's hearing registered at about 40 decibels. A "typical," good-hearing person will register at about 20 or below. So, some somewhat significant hearing loss.

The next step was a referral visit to the ENT. We met with Dr. Beck last week. She is renowned in the area and I was under the impression that we were fortunate to get in on such short notice. After another poky-look in Miss M's eensy weensy ears, she determined there was indeed a lot of blockage and some hearing loss as a result. She scheduled surgery to implant ear tubes five days later.

That day was today, and John and I left home this morning at 7 am with a sleepy, hungry (she wasn't allowed to eat or drink after 1:30 a.m., when I woke up to nurse her) little girl. We waited and waited with other young children and quiet parents until Dr. Beck scooped her away. So suddenly.

Heading in.

The procedure lasted all of eight minutes, and then she was back in my arms, which were resting on a pillow, waiting for her. It was miserable. She began to fuss and then wail - still under anesthesia. I couldn't nurse her until she was fully awake, which took at least five minutes. We had heard the other small children whining and bawling along the curtained posts on the small corridor, but since Mirabel rarely fusses I guess I thought she'd come out of it okay. It was such a hard thing to watch - my tiny sweetie churning miserably in my arms.

In true Mirabel fashion, though, she ate, woke up, and smiled, and we left about ten minutes later, carrying our souvenir of a tiny pink plastic gas mask. I think I'll make it into a Christmas tree ornament.

After a deep two hour nap, Mirabel and I had the day to ourselves. At one point I put her in the portable crib by the picture windows and I stood in the kitchen, where I softly said her name. She turned her head! I truly think her hearing has already improved.

We are flying to San Francisco this weekend (Mirabel's first trip!), and they assured me that tubes are actually a great thing for flying since the ears automatically equalize. We are up for anything.