Two BunBuns in hand and her backpack in the other, our confident, yet defiant daughter made her way to the car. Naturally, with such little awareness or understanding of where she was going. We made the short 55 minute journey to Cambridge, Addenbrooke’s Hospital.
4 years since Livy failed the newborn hearing screening, which pursued an in-depth investigation from 2 weeks old, a moderate hearing loss was detected. We have since seen a deterioration of her hearing over the last couple of years. Which has now lead us to this new journey of discovering her eligibility and suitability for cochlear implants… so it begins.
For anyone who hasn’t been to the hospital before, the sheer size of the campus is huge! If you’re attending the Emmeline Centre, park in car park 2 for the short walk round.
Livy’s first appointment where we met the professionals involved in her care was via conference call due to the COVID19 restrictions. They’ve limited the amount of travelling and admissions to the hospital.
Upon arrival and booking in, all reception staff are appropriately dressed in PPE. Due to the current global pandemic, COVID19. Despite the masks covering their smiles, you instantly felt the warmth from everyone waving at Livy making her feel as welcomed and comfortable as possible.
In just a short wait, we was taken to our audiology booth. We met our new audiologists and rehabilitation specialist, usually the speech and language therapist would be accompanying the appointment too. Livy was immediately drawn to the toys provided to distract her and keep her occupied during the checks of her ears, this was to check the condition and overall Heath of the ears, like wax/ infections etc…
Livy then had a Tympanometry test which is to assess how flexible the eardrum is. In order to be able to have good hearing you need to have a flexible eardrum to allow sound to pass through the eardrum. A small soft rubber tube is placed at the entrance of Livy’s ear. Air is gently blown down the tube with a sound that is played through a small speaker inside it. The tube then measures the sound that’s bounced back from the ear. If there is glue ear, which is fluid behind the eardrum, sound bounces back rather than going through it.
After a long exchange of series of questions, surrounding Livy’s lifestyle, her development and relationship with her hearing aids. We moved on to a Visual reinforcement audiometry/Play audiometry. This is conducted by playing varies of pitches of sounds through a device that’s attached to her hearing aid moulds. She must then link, hearing a sound with the visual reward. For example a screen appears with her favourite cartoon character or a action toy lights up in a booth. Once livy is able to associate the sound and the visual reward the volume and pitch of the sound will be varied to determine the quietest sounds that Livy is able to hear.
We then moved on to talking about the cochlear implants in more depth. We explored the benefits, the technology, the risks of the procedure/ infections, the expectations, the reality and suitability.
Throughout the appointment we was consistently yet gently reminded, that not everyone who goes through the assessment process is suitable, especially for someone with such mixed level of loss like Livy.
At this moment of time Livy’s left ear falls into the criteria for implantation. Her right ear currently sits at 85-80 which is the severe loss area. Livy needs two pitches to sit at 85-90 decibels. So she just misses the criteria. Unfortunately the NHS will only implant, if the person needs both ears. They will not implant just the one ear. Livy has another audiology assessment at the end of July to confirm the levels of loss recorded today.
We must remember that being implanted, is most certainly not a cure for deafness itself, it can however have potential to make a phenomenal difference to ones life.
Fortunately Livy has already had a MRI, which gathers information about the shape of her cochlear, which helps the professionals determine the choice of implant suitable for Livy.
If she gets that far.
Going forward, Livy has another audiology assessment which will be her third, 29th July. She will need a functionality test which is a visit in her home environment. But due to the pandemic restrictions, we’re uncertain how soon this will be. We will also meet the speech and language therapist. The team will then review their findings and decide whether livy has suitability for a cochlear implant, perhaps ending with the eventual offer of surgery and rehabilitation over the next few years.
Keep your fingers crossed.