Thursday, October 05, 2006

Why is Aiden Deaf?

Well, the short answer to this question is that we don't really know.

The longer answer is that Aiden could have lost his hearing due to a number of factors (although all relate to his prematurity).

Before Aiden was discharged from the NICU, he was given a Hearing Screening Test from the Ontario Infant Hearing Program. Before the test, parents have to complete a Form for their child, and part of that form is a section about Risk Factors for Hearing Loss. Ironically, Aiden didn't fail this hearing test - his results were inconclusive and he was scheduled for a repeat of the test after discharge. There are 15 risk factors identified, and Aiden had the following 4 of them:

1. Birth weight of less than, or equal to, 1200 grams (Aiden weighted only 550
grams at birth.
2. HFO/HFJ ventilation [High Frequency ventilation] (Aiden was on a ventilator for
77 days, part of which included High Frequency ventilation).
3. IVH (Intraventricular Brain Hemorrhage) grade iii or iv (Aiden suffered a grade
iii or possibly grade iv IVH on the left side of his brain).
4. Other very high risk identified by physician (Aiden had several courses of
anti-infection medications which listed hearing damage/loss as possible side
effects. These ototoxic medications included: Gentamycin, Vancomycin, Lasix &
Amphotericin B).

One of Aiden's Doctor's described him as having a "cocktail" effect of hearing loss risk factors. It could have been any one of the four factors listed above that caused his hearing loss, or any combination of the four.

All I can say (relatively certainly) is that Aiden was probably born with hearing, and that hearing was severely damaged during his stay in the NICU. Having said that, we do take some comfort in the fact that the risk factors that he experienced were either unavoidable (ie: low birth weight) or were encountered out of necessity to save his life. Sure, the NICU staff could have chosen to withold a ototoxic medication, but the infections that they were intended to fight could have claimed his life. There's not much point in having a hearing baby who isn't alive to enjoy his hearing.

At the end of the day, Aiden's hearing loss is something that we will live with for the rest of his life. It is part of who he is. And, for the most part, the "why" doesn't really matter.

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