I took Ruby to the doctor today to have her ears checked. Last month, she failed the routine hearing check at school – both ears. We knew she had trouble hearing, but didn’t know it was that bad. We did ear drops, hoping to dissolve the wax we figured was there clogging up the works. No dice. Her grandma started dosing her with allergy meds, morning and night, while we were in Seattle. Her incessant throat-clearing disappeared and she slept without coughing. Yet the hearing issue persisted.
The doctor took a look in Ruby’s ears. She perched precariously on the edge of the tissue-paper covered examination table, nervously awaiting his verdict. The wax was not blocking anything. A nurse walked Ruby down the hall to a very small room with a roll away sound chamber in it. (Where would one take that heavy phone booth anyway?) The gray metal rectangle, circa 1960, housed a chair, a back window, a set of earphones and a clicker to push when you hear something in your ear. Ruby entered the chamber with some trepidation. But at her heart, she’s a tough girl. She sat down the nurse closed the door behind her.
The test seemed to last forever as Nurse Nancy put Ruby through every frequency known to man or beast, using a machine that resembled a gray-green typewriter, only with dials. Ruby patiently sat in her chair, clicking when she heard things and not clicking the button when she didn’t.
We walked back to the examination room to wait.
“Mom, will there be more tests?” Ruby asked anxiously.
“Not today, baby,” I reassured her. Surely, not today!
The doctor, a kind and gentle man who greatly resembles a slender Santa Claus, said Ruby did a great job. He also showed me her chart. She does in fact have hearing loss. The meandering line on the chart showed an ability to hear that was way lower than the norm. The line dipped down and jutted up with what he called a “lip”. The question now is it from a Eustachian tube problem or something only correctable with hearing aids. He referred her to a pediatric ENT (ear, nose and throat doctor – an otolaryngologist ), possibly as far away as Tacoma.
I should mention at this point that as a child I had numerous ear infections. Eventually, I underwent an operation to have ear tubes put in. This meant I could not go swimming, as the water would damage the tubes. Maybe this is why I enjoy swimming so much now. Another operation removed them, somewhere in my 10th or 11th year.
So…the usual mom routine is to wonder what went wrong in utero to cause hearing loss in my child. Ruby was born a month early. Or maybe there’s a genetic link from my side of the family. Guilt tried to have a field day.
Our doctor also said that hearing loss creates isolation. He mentioned that the elderly tend to socialize less and less as their hearing goes. They simply stop trying. He said kids compensate, the joy of life and the excitement of being with others goading them on to figure things out. I remember working hard to see everything before we discovered I had terrible eyesight. I didn’t want to be left behind. I have noticed that Ruby has learned to read lips. Entirely self-taught, I might add. The doctor also mentioned the possibility of false glasses with hearing aids in arms of said glasses. Less prone to get lost.
I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Ruby all this time. How many times have I told her to pay attention? We thought she was daydreaming when maybe she simply could not hear what we were saying. I think I admire her even more for this. She has not given up. She has not complained (much), only turned the TV up louder. Very loud. She has resilience. May it continue. And Lord, please heal my girl.