Because we live in a rural area, finding hearing loss resources isn’t easy. The first year of my hard-of-hearing daughter’s life, she bounced between health systems like a pinball. Each referral pushed us farther from home. The hospital where I delivered Raina detected her hearing loss on the newborn screening but didn’t have an audiologist. They referred us to a different health system. She saw an audiologist and was diagnosed with mild-to-moderately severe hearing loss.
Before she could get hearing aids, she had to see a pediatric ENT. But our regional hospital didn’t have one. We were referred to a third health system with a pediatric ENT. This health system had everything she needed but was over three hours away.
At three months old and after much driving, Raina got her Phonak Sky VP hearing aids. I had prayed for her to get this technology at a young age. Locally, hearing aids are dispensed slowly. Between full schedules and long-distance referrals, some rural children wait more than a year for their first pair. Now that she had hearing aids, she could follow up with the audiologist closer to home.
Read more: What’s On Her Ears?
In visiting three different health systems in three months, I noticed some differences in hearing loss resources. As you might guess, not all health care is of equal quality. The big city children’s hospital boasted mega resources that our rural regional hospital couldn’t match. But it wasn’t feasible to make a six-hour round trip every time she needed a hearing aid check.
“The big city children’s hospital boasted mega resources that our rural regional hospital couldn’t match.”
For routine stuff like ear molds, booth tests, and hearing aid checks, we stayed close to home. The important things, like an MRI or genetic testing, had us driving the distance.
For genetic testing in particular, I’m glad we chose the health system with the most resources. Sure, the six-hour round trip with an infant was terrible. But they scheduled us quickly and we had results back for connexin 26 in about a month. The other health system would have taken at least six months for results.
One thing that helped me advocate for my child to receive hearing aids so young was connecting with other moms through social media. What type of technology were their kids using? What age did they receive it? On Instagram, I saw tender babies, two or three months old, rocking hearing tech. That motivated me to push hard for her to get aided at a young age.
Every rural kid deserves to have the same opportunities.
Are you the parent of a child with hearing loss living in a rural area? What resources do you wish were closer to home?