Friday, June 15, 2012

You Heard What I Said! (Part Two)

In the fall of 2011, we had a bad string of hearing aid molds. One pair never fit well, and Benjamin wouldn’t keep them in, so we had them quickly replaced. The next pair wasn’t much better. During the intervals of waiting for the new molds to come in, there wasn’t much point in trying to keep his hearing aids in much, because he was so quick to pull them out. I had hoped that a new set would be in before we left for MN to spend Christmas with family, but they didn’t make it back on time, so we left for our trip and didn’t even bother packing the hearing aids.

When we finally received his new molds in January, we still seemed to be having problems. Benjamin had always enjoyed wearing his hearing aids; why was he suddenly fighting them so much? He would cry every time I tried to put them in.  By this point it had been a few months since he had worn them consistently, and I wrestled with feelings of guilt over this fact. However, during those few months Shawn and I were noticing a new level of responsiveness in Benjamin even without the hearing aids. It was subtle things: if he was sitting in his high chair and the coffee pot started to brew across the kitchen he would turn around and look for the source of the sound. He would respond to our voices spoken softly, even if he wasn’t looking at us when we spoke. He was turning towards various noises more and more in general. Our hopes began to rise.

I brought these things to the attention of our audiologist and requested to have some more hearing tests done. She wanted to stick with behavioral hearing tests at first, but we found out during one of the first attempts that Benjamin had a build-up of ear wax in his ear. She recommended we have it cleaned out. At the end of January 2012 we had an appointment with his ENT in which he was able to extract some large pieces of wax from inside Benjamin’s ears. One of his ear tubes had already fallen out previously, and the remaining tube came out with a glob of wax. However, since Benjamin has not struggled much with ear infections, the ENT didn’t feel it was necessary to replace the tubes again.

Our audiologist works at multiple sites, and she happened to be at our ENT’s office that day, so she performed a behavioral hearing test on Benjamin with his freshly cleaned ears. She was surprised and excited by the results. He was responding in the low normal range, without his hearing aids. The next step now was to schedule another ABR.

On March 1, Shawn and I drove to The Scholl Center for what ended up being round one of Benjamin’s ABR testing. Since they had decided not to use sedation for his testing, we had to try to plan the appointment close to his nap time and hope that he would sleep long enough to test his ears. We were taken back to a little room decorated like a nursery with the lights dimmed. I held Benjamin on my lap in an oversized recliner as the young woman who would be performing the test began prepping our son for the procedure. She was very kind, interning for what was the last semester of her Ph.D. program. Benjamin, however, did not appreciate her at all and screamed and twisted around in my arms as she hooked up the electrodes to his head and  inserted the microphone in his ear. Now the challenge was to get him to sleep. She wisely stepped out of the room for a while, so I could sooth him. Shawn sat across the room from me, trying to stay awake himself as I sang “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” for what felt like 50 times. My angry toddler finally fell asleep in my arms. The test could begin. As mentioned previously, each ear required an hour for testing, so we knew it wasn’t likely that Benjamin would stay asleep long enough to test both ears. I didn’t think my arms could hold out that long either. As my son slept and the computer monitor charted what looked to me like nothing more than squiggly lines, we chatted some with the young audiologist, with whom we found we had some mutual acquaintances, or we sat in silence. My arms were aching and my stomach was growling before it was all said and done.

Shortly after the test on Benjamin’s right ear was completed he began to stir, and he was not happy to wake up to the same surroundings he’d fallen asleep in. We scheduled a second appointment for two weeks later to test his left ear. The audiologist was a bit hesitant to talk to us about her findings from the test. We had told her our son’s story and were honest about our hopes that God had healed him. We knew from our conversation that she was a Christian as well, and we knew she didn’t want us to be disappointed. She said that she really wanted to run the test results by her supervisor for a second opinion. However, she did admit that from what she was seeing so far, she could not find any indication of hearing loss in his right ear! We were thrilled!

Since we were already in Tulsa, and Shawn had taken the day off of work, we decided to take some time to enjoy ourselves while we were there. We headed to one of our favorite restaurants, Panera Bread, for a celebration lunch. Benjamin loves their macaroni and cheese! After enjoying a delicious meal, topped off with a steaming cup of hazelnut coffee (Benjamin drank juice!), we headed for La Fortune Park. It was a perfect day to be outdoors, and the park with its lovely walking trail, duck pond, and playground equipment, was the perfect place to be. We enjoyed the sunshine, the scenery and some quality family time as we rejoiced in our son’s good report!

Two weeks later we found ourselves back at The Scholl Center to test Benjamin’s left ear. The young audiologist quickly confirmed the results of the previous test: her supervisor had looked everything over and agreed that it looked perfectly normal! We could hardly wait for what this day’s test would reveal, especially since his left ear was the one with the greater level of hearing loss. As anticipated, Benjamin put up quite a fight again before finally falling asleep in my arms, but he eventually gave up, and the hour long testing began. The audiologist was cautious again to give us a concrete answer without running the results by her supervisor, but she did say that from what she could tell, his left ear was showing either normal hearing or only a very mild loss. Either one was a huge improvement from the moderate loss he had previously been diagnosed with! We left rejoicing in God’s goodness and power demonstrated in Benjamin’s life.

Within the next week, she called us to confirm that report: normal hearing in both ears! There was no concrete explanation for it, either. Over the phone she admitted to me what we already knew to be true, “It could be a miracle.” An excerpt from the official report reads as follows:

History: Parents have noticed that Benjamin seems to be responding better at home while not wearing his hearing aids. A diagnostic ABR…from 5/21/2010 showed a moderately sloping, most likely sensorineural, hearing loss in the left ear and a mildly sloping, most likely sensorineural, hearing loss in the right ear.

Impression: Tympanometry was consistent with normal middle ear function bilaterally. Diagnostic ABR results were consistent with normal hearing sensitivity in the left ear. ABR results from 3/1/2012 were consistent with normal hearing sensitivity in the right ear.

Recommendations: 1) Discontinue bilateral hearing aid use. 2) Seek ear specific behavioral thresholds to confirm ABR results. 3) Continue speech-language therapy.

Since receiving confirmation of this miracle in Benjamin’s hearing, we have shared his testimony with many people. The responses have been mixed. Some have quickly rejoiced with us, believing that our God is a miracle-working God. Others, however, have been skeptical. Some have wondered if Benjamin was mis-diagnosed with hearing loss to begin with. I can assure you, he had hearing loss, and he no longer does. A friend of ours who is a licensed speech therapist assured us that ABR test results don’t lie. Testing aside, Benjamin’s behavior over the past two years related to his hearing is proof enough. A few people have wondered if his ear canals have grown big enough to allow him to hear better. I want to laugh at this one. His ear canals are still so tiny his pediatrician has a difficult time seeing anything when he examines him. When Benjamin was first diagnosed, we were never given any hope that his hearing could improve as he grew. Quite the contrary, we were told it may deteriorate.

Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child  will by no means enter it,” (Mark 10:15). Jesus also taught His followers to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” (Matthew 6:10). There is no hearing loss in heaven. We prayed and other prayed that what was true in heaven would be done on earth in our son’s ears. And God heard our prayers. I don’t know when or how He healed Benjamin’s ears, I just know that He did it! You heard what I said!

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