After results shared that Elliott had failed his newborn hearing screening, it was advised that he undergo further testing a few weeks later. With no family history of hearing loss, Julie and her husband Scott weren’t too worried about the results. In addition, “We also learned that it is common for babies born via C-section to have excess fluid in their ears therefore causing them to fail the hearing test,” said Elliott’s mom, Julie.
In 1993, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) endorsed the screening of all newborns for hearing loss before discharge. Currently, all 50 states have Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) laws requiring a hearing screening prior to leaving the hospital, or no later than one month of age. If a child does not pass this screening, EHDI states that all children should receive a diagnostic evaluation before three months of age and, when necessary, receive intervention prior to 6 months of age.
Four weeks later, Elliott was retested at Lurie Children’s Department of Audiology. Julie and Scott learned that Elliott had hearing loss. “I remember sitting in the sound booth during the hearing test with my husband and Elliott when his two audiologists Nicole and Katie said, ‘Welcome to the audiology community.’ And I just started to cry – not knowing how to process the news,” said Julie. “I had 100 different questions – how did it happen, what did I do wrong, what does this mean for his future? There were so many mixed emotions learning the news, but Katie and Nicole were both so amazing and supportive. They laid out as best as they could what the next steps would be.”
Through a diagnostic auditory brainstem response (ABR) hearing evaluation, Elliott was diagnosed with permanent, sensorineural hearing loss in both ears. At just two months of age, Elliott was fitted with bilateral hearing aids. “He’s worn hearing aids since he was two months old and it’s been such a huge part of who he is,” said Julie. “He has thrived developmentally and that’s in large part because of the care between our team at Lurie Children’s, early intervention and his daycare.”
Elliott, now 4, calls his hearing aids affectionately “his ears,” attends school in a mainstream classroom and has excelled with his speech and language development. Every six months he comes to the hospital’s audiology team to test his hearing and to make sure he is being aided at the level he needs.
Throughout this journey, Julie and her husband have been overwhelmed with the support they have received from the audiology team at Lurie Children’s. “They’ve helped us wrap our head around understanding the depth and breadth of what it means to have a child with hearing loss. Our team at Lurie Children’s has been by our side since the beginning and it’s been really great to have experts who have empathized with our experience.”
Talking about Elliott’s future, his mom Julie is excited that there is so much possibility. “The technology for hearing loss is getting more and more innovative,” said Julie. “But I’m also proud to show Elliott role models who are exceling even with hearing loss. I recently watched a special on songwriter Alex Lacamoire, who has written songs for Hamilton and other Broadway shows and who has hearing loss. There is so much possibility for individuals with hearing loss whether it’s from a technology front or being more visible nationally.”
Through Elliott’s hearing journey, he and his family have been followed by audiologist, Katie Farnsworth, AuD, CCC-A. Audiologists are the primary health-care professionals who evaluate, diagnosis, treat and manage hearing loss and balance disorders in adults and children. The 23 audiologists at Lurie Children’s specialize in inpatient and outpatient diagnostic testing for children birth to 21 and pediatric amplification, including hearing aids, cochlear implants and bone conduction hearing aids.