How did we find out?
Ben was born on January 13, 2009. It was a terrific day -- everything went smoothly, and I was so thrilled to hold him in my arms.
That night, he was given a newborn hearing screening. He failed. Strictly speaking, he was "referred" -- meaning that the machine showed no response and he would need follow-up testing. (They don't like to call it "failure".) The nurses assured us that there was nothing to worry about. He might still have some gunk in his ears from birth. He probably squirmed and disconnected the electrodes. We had plenty of other things on our minds and we were more than willing to believe their assurances, so we took their advice and didn't worry.
The next night, they tested him again, and again he was "referred". Again they told us not to worry, but we asked my doctor, every nurse, and the on-call pediatrition for advice. I made an appointment with an audiologist for more testing. In the meantime, we performed our own hearing 'tests' by clapping and banging pots and pans over his head. We tried to convince ourselves he was responding.
At the audiologist's, Ben took a test called an ABR (auditory brainstem response test). He had to sleep for three hours while the test was preformed. Once again, no response. But, we were told Ben's ear canals were collapsed and it was probably nothing to worry about. They might 'pop' back in a few weeks. We should come back then.
I didn't want to wait. I took Ben to an ENT the next week. He insisted his canals were not collapsed. This was not the problem. By now, we were no longer in denial. We knew something was wrong.
At this point it seemed like Ben had some sort of hearing loss. We went to OHSU for a more comprehensive ABR. After two visits, six hours of sleeping, and two long tests we had our answer.
It wasn't good news.
We found that Ben is profoundly deaf in his right ear, and severely-to-profoundly deaf in his left.
We knew he was deaf, but to have it confirmed and to have it be so bad....
We drove home in silence, both thinking the same thing: some how Ben will hear.