Oct. 1, 2019 – The audiology team had an interactive visit planned for me when I stopped by their offices at the Rady Children’s Health Services building. The first thing I did was sit in a chair that spins around inside of a cylinder!
This test is just one of several offered in the team’s balance lab that helps diagnose a vestibular (inner ear balance) disorder. Children who take this test also wear a pair of video goggles that record eye movements as the computerized chair swivels back and forth. Fortunately, I just took a couple of turns in the chair and was not subjected to the full test. Next, it was on to another device that measures balance by having patients stand on a platform that moves for portions of the evaluation. This test can be effective in working with kids who have trouble standing due to a health event, such as those who have suffered a concussion or have received a cochlear implant. These tests are part of a full complement of vestibular disorder tests offered at the Shirley and Sam Richter Clinic for Balance Disorders at Rady Children’s, one of only eight balance clinic centers in the country.
This department is focused on identifying hearing loss and beginning services at the youngest age possible — research shows that early intervention increases a child’s chances of developing spoken language. The goal is for a child to receive a hearing screening no later than one month of age, a diagnosis no later than three months of age and entry into early intervention services no later than six months of age.
As Audiology Manager Julie Purdy described it, the “bread and butter [of what we do] are hearing tests, day in and day out.” So, of course, it was time for me to get a hearing test! I took a seat in a soundproof booth with headphones on and, because I was old enough to understand words and speak, I had to repeat the words that I heard (“baseball,” “ice cream,” “outside” and “sidewalk” were a few of them). Fortunately, I passed the test.
Then it was on to visit with the team members who fit hearing aids, which have come a long way over the years! They come in a variety of fun and unique colors and have some amazing features. For example, some hearing aids can connect to an iPhone, allowing kids to listen to music through them. The molds are made in-house and tested to make sure they are comfortable and emit the correct amount of sound. There are two types of hearing aids: air conduction, which are the most common and deliver sounds to the ear canal, and bone conduction which transfer sound by bone vibration directly to the cochlea, bypassing the outer and middle ear.
In cases of profound or severe hearing loss, some children get fitted with cochlear implants, which transmit sound information directly to the auditory nerve. Rady Children’s multidisciplinary cochlear implant team provides comprehensive evaluations of children being considered for the implants and patients who already have them. So far this year, about 60 patients have received cochlear implants. The primary goal of the program is to provide each child with the tools required to understand spoken language and to communicate with confidence. Of course, this team is on the cutting edge with the latest technology and features available, including the popular one-piece implant and implant covers that vary from fun monster faces to those designed to match human hair.
We wrapped up this visit with more team introductions and the customary passport stamp. Julie gave me a copy of the Dr. Seuss classic “Horton Hears a Who!,” which the team signed (and used as inspiration for their stamp), along with a fantastic scrapbook. It’s always a pleasure to see a team with such passion for what they do. This engaged group clearly loves their roles in helping to enhance and improve kids’ sense of sound, and it shows. Thanks for the great visit!