Last year, Harrison failed his reception hearing test. We were a little surprised – like lots of kids, he sometimes seems to suffer from selective hearing (can’t hear us telling him to put something away, but can hear the rustle of a chocolate wrapper from two rooms away!) but nothing at all to suggest that he had any real issues with his hearing. The letter that came home from the school nurse told us not to worry – lots of children fail the first one and then pass the one they do six weeks later to check again. Harrison ended up being one of the children that failed them both, meaning he very likely did have something wrong with his hearing. We talked to him about it, asking him if he could hear us. He told us that he could sometimes, but that his right ear was quiet.
A couple of months later, an appointment came through for him to have further checks with the ENT department. They did a few tests with him, and they revealed that he had mild hearing loss in his left ear, and moderate hearing loss in his right ear – he was right! We were absolutely mortified. Our son had significant hearing loss, and we hadn’t picked up a thing. If it hadn’t have been for the routine reception tests we would still be none the wiser. We were put on the waiting list to see a consultant. We spoke to his teachers at school who made some adjustments – putting him at the front of the class and making sure his ‘good’ ear is facing them. We talked to Harrison lots about how his ears didn’t work quite as well as they should. For a five-year-old, he took it completely in his stride. It turns out he got this far without us picking up on anything by lip reading – he’s amazing at it!
We moved to Wales before he managed to see a consultant, so the first thing we did was inform our GP and get on the 9-month waiting list here. His appointment to see a consultant at Glan Clwyd hospital came through for June, the day after his 6th birthday. They repeated the tests they did back in Birmingham, which confirmed the same thing, but, to our relief, his inner ears and all those bits were working perfectly, hinting at some sort of blockage.
On a closer look, the consultant diagnosed him with otitis media with effusion – glue ear. It’s really common in young children, with as many as 80% of children suffering with it at some stage before they are 10 years old. In most cases, it resolves itself within a couple of months, so lots don’t realise it’s even been an issue. Unfortunately, Harrison’s hasn’t, and it looks like he is going to need a bit of help to get over it. Thinking about it, Harrison has alway been quite a congested and snotty kid – he gets blocked up noses easily, snores and is a heavy breather. which is all possibly connected. Although he has had this issue for well over a year, the consultant decided to opt for a ‘wait and see’ treatment – he gave us an anti-congestion spray to use for six weeks to see if that helps, and we are going back in a couple of months. The next step, if this hasn’t worked (and we don’t think it has) will be grommets.
They’re inserted under general anaesthetic, which obviously is something we aren’t looking forward to, but we’ve talked to Harrison lots about what it is and what might happen. He’s quite happy with it – I think he just wants to hear properly!
Since his diagnosis, a lot of friends, both in ‘real life’ or online have come forward and said they or their children had glue ear and have grommets, so it’s a pretty common thing. I think what we have struggled with most is the fact that we never picked up on it, but as one of his teachers said, it hasn’t affected him at all and he’s adapted and created his own strategies to deal with it. It proves just how resilient kids can be! We’re still waiting for the appointment with the consultant to see what the next step is, and I’ll keep you up to date.