ear tubes speech delay

Chronic Ear Infections Lead to a Speech Delay

I never imagined my son would have a speech delay. In fact, to be quite frank, I never imagined he’d have any delays. Both my husband and I had no issues learning how to talk. Or maybe because there wasn’t Google or Facebook back then, we didn’t have other people to compare to. 

Around 2 and a half years of age, Beckham was saying the norm. “Dog, Dada, Mama”..etc. But after a visit with our friends, we noticed their little girl was having conversations like a grown adult, and our little guy was not even near her range of vocabulary. They were the same age. 

“Girls learn faster.” Someone said to me. But I still had this feeling that my son was behind. Then one day, my mother in law mentioned something about his chronic ear infections and how it could be affecting his hearing, therefore delaying his speech.

My husband and I were both confused.. Hearing loss never even crossed our minds. When we called his name he looked, when we told him to fetch us a toy, he knew what we were talking about. Nothing was wrong with his hearing…

After three months in a row of ear infections and three rounds of antibiotics, I felt in my gut that something wasn’t right. Not to mention, he had several other ear infections before this and several more rounds of antibiotics. Something had to give.. 

I started researching what my MIL had told us about the hearing loss. That’s when I read this:

When fluid sits in the middle ear for weeks, the condition is known as “otitis media with effusion.” This occurs in a recovering ear infection. Fluid can remain in the ear for weeks to many months. If not treated, chronic ear infections have potentially serious consequences such as temporary hearing loss.

It made sense. Maybe Beckham was delayed with his speech because he hasn’t been hearing us correctly. After all, they say when fluid is in your ears it sounds like everything is under water. Can you imagine having to learn a language under water? It’d be impossible. No wonder my son wasn’t speaking a huge range of words.

I Need Answers

That week I took him back to the pediatrician. I told her my concerns with his speech and hearing. She agreed that we needed to look into this. She referred me to a speech therapist and an Ear, Nose, Throat doctor. The very next day I made an appointment for the ENT doc. A week later we were sitting at our appointment and as she stuck the scope in my little boy’s ears. 

“His ears are very red. Looks like he has fluid in there.”

Are you F*cking serious? I thought to myself. He had literally completed a round of antibiotics the day before his appointment. So there’s no telling HOW long he has had this fluid in there. All those times we had completed the medicine and thought he was healed, he probably wasn’t. 

I explained to the nurse that we were worried about a speech delay and she agreed that the fluid in his ears more than likely was causing temporary hearing loss. Without a second thought, she recommended we place tubes in his ears to help relieve the fluid and also remove his adenoids. (Besides the chronic ear infections he kept having a runny nose and croupy cough.)

Speech Therapy 

I left the appointment with a scheduled surgery for two weeks later. I was so relieved to get some answers. That same week we had our first appointment with Central Florida Therapy where we met with Julie Lashbrook, M.A., CCC/SLP. (I can not recommend her enough.) She did Beckham’s initial speech assessment and verified that he had a mild speech delay. He was scheduled for speech twice a week for six months. We are currently in therapy as I write this and Beckham is doing amazing!

Ear Tubes and Adenoidectomy Surgery

The day of surgery, eric and I were a wreck. No one wants to see their toddler go through surgery. Especially when he has no idea what’s going on. We walked in that morning with a very cheerful little boy, but as the nurses came in and prepared him with his monkey-themed gown and cap, he knew something strange was about to happen.

The moment the nurses took him back he started screaming for me. Watching his little hands fly up and yell “Mama” broke my heart. The good news: it only took 30 minutes for the entire surgery. In fact, Eric had stepped out to go get us breakfast and before he could order our food at McDonalds, the doctor was back in the lobby telling me everything went great.

I asked him about the ears first thing. He told me Beckham still had a lot of fluid back in his middle ear and he suctioned as much as possible out before placing the tubes. He also noted that the adenoids were a little swollen so it was a good call to get them removed. 

Once we were allowed back, I came into Beckham’s room to see him sound asleep in the nurse’s arms. “He’s going to be a little grumpy and sleepy” the nurse said. I grabbed him out of her arms and he cried but he knew it was his mommy and clung to me as tight as he could. We waited in the room for about half an hour to help him wake up. He was so sleepy he didn’t want to get dressed or leave the room. 

We finally talked him into getting dressed and we left the hospital about 45 minutes after his surgery. We were given ear drops, another antibiotic and told to give him tylenol if needed. My poor baby looked so pitiful with his rosy cheeks and little frown. 

All is Well

The second we walked through the door of our home, Beckham acted like nothing had happened. He started laughing at the dog and going about his business playing with his toys. He never once cried when we got home. I kept him home the rest of the week, per our doctor’s instructions, which was about 5 days. He returned to school that next week.

That afternoon when I picked Beckham up from school the teachers were raving that we had a new child. “He did things today that he never does.. We’ve never seen him climb up the playground and he did that today. We really think that maybe his equilibrium was off and now he’s acting like he feels better.”

Hearing those words was obviously music to my ears. It’s now been one about three weeks since Beckham’s surgery. I haven’t seen him tug on his ears once. As for his hearing and speech, we are going to therapy twice a week and we have truly seen a change in this child. He is trying to say more words now when we speak. He didn’t use to mock us as much and now he’s like a parrot and tries really hard to pronounce words that we say.

Another added bonus: we took him to Nemours Children Hospital for a hearing test after his tubes were placed and we got back a NORMAL hearing score! I could not have been more grateful to hear those words.

We are still going to speech therapy twice a week for the remainder of the six months. I’m hoping to update you all after the six months with a well-versed talking toddler. 

If something doesn’t feel right, get a second opinion

If your child is having medical issues and you’re not getting the answers you’re looking for, go get a second opinion. It took us a little while to realize that what the pediatrician was doing was not working for us. I am so thankful that my MIL mentioned the hearing issue or else I would have never thought twice about it. It’s almost like you put on these rose colored glasses when you’re a mama. You don’t want to think that anything is wrong with your child. Always go with your gut. A mother’s intuition is second to none.

 

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