My mom and I took Sammy to the ENT today, a follow up from his last hearing test and evaluation in August. The results were the same as usual – fluid behind the eardrums and a mild hearing loss. It’s always the same result when he doesn’t have tubes.
When Sammy was 2 years old, he wasn’t developing speech at quite the rate his pediatrician would have liked. He spoke, even sang, at least a few words, but his vocabulary was obviously behind other kids his age. So she sent us to an ENT and a speech therapist to find out what was going on. After so many doctor visits, everyone agreed he had a speech disturbance due to hearing loss. The next steps were inserting ear tubes to relive the fluid buildup and start a speech therapy program. We went for the tube surgery, which wasn’t all that bad. It was over in 5 minutes, and there was an enjoyable moment when the nurse gave him a nose spray that rendered him a very tiny drunk. He threw up the juice we gave him after the procedure, and proceeded to run circles around the backyard by 10 AM.
The speech therapy wasn’t as simple. It was a non-starter, actually. The insurance refused to cover it, citing that they didn’t cover speech delays. Every document the doctors gave me called his issue a speech disturbance due to hearing loss, which should have fallen nicely under their coverage of speech problems resulting from injury or illness. But after 6 months of fighting, I gave up and contacted the local early childhood care office. By the time ECC evaluated Sammy, he was closing in on his third birthday, and since they provided services for kids up to 3, they sent us to the school district. I soon discovered we were extremely lucky to live where we live.
Sammy started a preschool class of all types of kids, but his teachers worked hard to address communication issues (among a host of others). He adored going to “big boy school,” and still does. This year, he transitioned to a more specialized class with kids in the same speech boat as him is. Class is less frequent, but with fewer kids and a more specific curriculum, he continues to improve his speech and language.
But still, the ear fluid persisted. He hasn’t had ear infections, even though that’s the obvious symptom. But every time his ears are checked, there’s fluid. The ENT once described it like having hair gel in his ears. Ew. We’ve been through ear tube surgery twice now, the second time with the added bonus of adenoid removal (that is just too gross to describe, but I will mention the charming post-operative effect of breath that smells like he just ate a wildebeest). And yet, once the tubes come out, fluid.
So here we are again. Next week, Sammy will have surgery for the third time, this time inserting T-tubes, which are supposed to stay in significantly longer, giving the ears a change to regulate more permanently. I hate putting my child through another procedure, but the option of not doing it and risking more long-term damage, not to mention leaving the speed bump to his communication development firmly in his way, is riskier in my book. I have to give him the fighting chance he deserves.
Surgery is surgery, and it is dangerous, but this one is pretty low on the danger scale. He’s been through essentially the same thing twice already. My biggest worry is how to distract him from the fact that he can’t eat anything for a million hours beforehand. Hopefully, this will be the last of its kind. Third time and all.