Saturday, October 17, 2015

How Listening To Our Gut & Not Our Doctor…Helped Diagnose Our Son’s Hearing Loss

By Eric Sherman

As a general rule, we listen and trust our doctors when it comes to our health.  Why shouldn’t we, they went to medical school, spent years of their life training to be a doctor and they take a Hippocratic Oath.  But, doctors are people too.  They aren’t perfect and if your gut is telling you one thing and your doctor is telling you another, there are times you might just need to listen to your gut. 

It might sound cliché when someone says, “what is your gut telling you?” in our case, it helped diagnose our son’s hearing loss at an early age.

As with most parents, especially those with newborns or small children, anytime something seemed wrong with our child (i.e. runny nose, yellow poop, excessive crying, bright red ears, etc.), we called our pediatrician.  In most cases, our pediatrician addressed our son’s health issues, except the one time when we raised the issue about his hearing.

When our son was around six months of age, he seemed to be getting a lot of ear infections.  He wasn’t at the point of needing tubes, but it was a health issue.  Anyway, my wife and I went on a vacation and the grandparents watched our kids.

When we returned home, the grandparents raised a concern that our son didn’t seem to be hearing.  We thought this couldn’t be right as he had passed his newborn hearing test.  The grandparents did some simple tests (e.g. banging pots, slamming doors and clapping) to show us why they felt our son wasn’t hearing.  Admittedly, my son didn’t respond to those stimuli which seemed odd, but to other similar stimuli his behavior seemed normal.

After a few days and a lot of anxiety over whether our son had a hearing problem or not, we called our pediatrician.  We shared our concerns, expressed what the grandparents observed and asked about a hearing test.  His response was, “the grandparents are just a bunch of worry warts. I saw your son a couple of weeks ago, he had an ear infection and now he’s fine. I don’t need to see you again.”  Our gut told us otherwise. 

Feeling very uneasy and confused by the doctor’s flippant attitude regarding our concerns, we decided to find an audiologist who would do a hearing test on our son.  Generally for a six-month-old you would have an auditory brainstem response (ABR) test done to test hearing. After our conversation with our doctor, he didn’t seem interested in writing a prescription for an ABR test. We found an audiologist who ran some tests in a sound booth.  After about a ½ hour of testing, the audiologist turns to me and said, “I’m seeing enough red flags here to warrant an ABR test.”  The audiologist agreed to call our pediatrician to share her observation and recommendation.  Luckily, our pediatrician was out of town and the audiologist spoke to the “on call” doctor who wrote a prescription for an ABR test at a local hospital. 

The ABR results confirmed that our son had profound to severe hearing loss.  When our pediatrician received the report, he was in total denial and wanted us to have another ABR test done but this time at UCLA medical center.  Again, results found profound to severe hearing loss.

Our pediatrician’s response to our son’s hearing loss, “I guess we sometimes have to listen to the grandparents.”  No apologies for dismissing our concerns. He didn’t talk about next steps or options for us. Nothing!

This epic failure and lack of professionalism could have set our son back months if not years with developmental delays.  Luckily, we have family and friends in the medical field that provided help and guidance that allowed us to take matters into our own hands.   Our son now has bilateral cochlear implants and hears great.

The unfortunate thing about our story is that it is one of too many where doctors have dismissed a parent’s concern or another professional’s opinion (i.e. school audiologist or teacher) regarding hearing issues.

In the end, you should always follow your doctor’s instructions. But if your concerns are not being addressed or if you have a feeling in your gut that something is just not right, don’t be afraid to seek another opinion.  The more information you have the better decisions you can make regarding your heath.

BTW, we found a new pediatrician!

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