Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Hearing Update

After two standard newborn hearing screens and two rounds of much more involved testing, Logan has been diagnosed with profound sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) in his left ear.

From my understanding, this means that the nerves that transmit sound from his ear to his brain didn't fully develop. During the testing process, they would send sounds into his ear to watch for the brain's response. The frequency had to be increased significantly (up to the level of a jet engine) in order to see a possible slight response from his left ear. So, his hearing loss has been deemed profound meaning there is little to no hearing in that ear. As a result of such extreme hearing loss, there are going to be several options available to Logan. More testing will need to be done in order to figure out what is going to work best.

When some people find out about Logan's hearing loss, they ask about the other ear. Once I say that the right ear currently hears normally, the response is often, "Oh well, at least he has one good ear." Yes, we are definitely lucky that he has "one good ear", but he is going to be faced with many challenges that most people would never consider. Our bodies were designed to have two ears that work together. During my research, I came across this, which I found interesting:

To your brain, one ear + one ear = three!  A sound that is barely audible at 20 feet away with only 
one ear is easily audible at 30 feet when two ears are listening. This is called the binaural 
summation effect and is the result of the two hearing nerves crossing many hundreds 
of times before the information reaches the cortex.

 Logan doesn't simply hear half as well as the rest of us. From the time he was born, I noticed that he seemed to get overwhelmed and upset in noisy or chaotic environments. For those of us with two hearing ears, we can take in all the sounds that we hear and easily filter out what isn't important to us at the time. For Logan, all of the sounds and speech in a loud environment overload his right ear, making it difficult for him to filter out what he doesn't need to hear. There are times when I feel overwhelmed in a chaotic environment, so I can't imagine how he must feel. It can also be difficult for him to determine where sounds and speech are coming from, which is why he might not look at someone immediately if they speak to him. Listening with just one ear can be tiring and can require much more effort. These are the challenges that he is being faced with at just 4 months old. As he gets older and eventually goes to school, the challenges will only increase. It's hard to not think about the future and how he will do in school, sports, activities, social settings and from a safety perspective.

We are extremely fortunate to live in Toronto, the home of a world renowned children's hospital, Sick Kids. They are currently doing a study on cochlear implants for unilateral hearing loss in babies. This work is only being done in a couple places around the world and the doctor we were lucky enough to see last week, is at the forefront of cochlear implant research. We had met with an audiologist before our appointment with the doctor. By the time he came in, I was feeling a little overwhelmed and didn't think to ask several of the questions running through my head. We are heading back there in the next few weeks because we have decided to start out by getting Logan fitted for a hearing aid. While this likely won't help him much, because his hearing loss is so severe, it will be a chance for him to get used to wearing something on his ear/head. More testing will be required to see if Logan is a candidate for an implant. From the sounds of it, early intervention is key. Implanting as a baby will have a dramatic effect on the way his brain will develop.

For now, I'm in information gathering mode, trying hard not to get too overwhelmed. I definitely do feel sad when I think of the challenges that are ahead. It could be worse though. So much worse. I can certainly put things in perspective, especially when we walk into Sick Kids.

Slight segue....I've been doing a spin class (babies allowed!) to kick my butt back into shape. I've been told repeatedly that I need to protect his good ear, so he wears his ear muffs and looks ridiculously adorable in them! I love them, Logan does not. He figured out quite quickly how to knock them off. The lucky little dude usually gets to leave the room and hang out with one of the people who works at the studio! Spoiled guy ;)


  1. I have a local friend whose baby, now 18 month, also has hearing loss. I don't believe his is as severe & it has gotten worse with time. He is getting hearing aid soon.
    Also, My mom only hears from one ear. Nothing was ever done for her as a child or even as an adult. She has gone her whole life only hearing from one ear. A lot of people often think she's ignoring them if they are talking from the side she doesn't hear from, lol... I think it's great that they have come so far with cochlear implants & that hopefully Logan will be able to hear from both ears soon!

    1. It must have been so tough growing up only hearing from one ear. Like you said, people assume that the person is ignoring them. While it is possible for people to function with just one working ear, I'm so grateful that there are now options available to kids. As I've been told, the research is there to show that kids with unilateral hearing loss can fall behind in school and really struggle in day to day life. We will see what they figure out for Logan!

  2. I know all the information and unknown can be super scary. I would encourage you to look into the Deaf community in your region. You will see successful Deaf adults with and without CIs, hearing aids, and those that use no assistive technology. As a sign language interpreter I can tell you I know lots of Deaf people living happy, fulfilled lives. I would be happy to provide links/resources for you. (Aside from being an interpreter, I also have my degree in speech, language, hearing science.

    1. Thanks for the comment and the offer to provide resources. I would love to read anything that you're willing to send!

      There's no doubt in my mind that Logan will live a fulfilling life, despite his hearing loss. Since receiving the diagnosis, we have heard from many people who have or know someone who has hearing loss.

      We have already been to a local centre for the deaf and found it extremely helpful. They offer a bi-weekly drop in for parents and children. I was lucky enough to chat with the person who runs it for over an hour. She has a child with the same hearing loss as Logan. I certainly feel fortunate to live in Toronto! So many great resources!

  3. I think a hearing aid of some sort would be very beneficial for Logan. That they can do these things so early now is amazing to me. As I mentioned to you before, I have 75% hearing loss in one ear and it has been a struggle at times. As you stated from research, children with any hearing loss can fall behind in school and socially. Mine has been a progressive decline and so I do not recall major issues from childhood, but by the time I started college it had became very hard to distinguish certain words and phrases throughout the lectures, especially if the professor was a fast talker. If I was not an adept student to begin with I am certain that I would have fallen behind due to not getting the entirety of the classroom experience. I echo above that the Deaf and ASL community will be a great resource for you and little one. I admire you and Jenn so much for being proactive about all of this. Logan is a very lucky little guy!

    1. Thanks! We are doing our best to be proactive. I'm glad that we found out about it so early. It will be interesting to see if/how he responds to the hearing aid.