Wednesday, March 14, 2012

nothing so beautiful as a word clearly heard

One day when I was a child     long ago
Mr Long Ago spoke up in school
He said
Oh children you must roll your r's
no no not on your tongue little girl
I N   Y O U R   T H R O A T
there is nothing so beautiful as r rolled in the throat of a French
no woman more beautiful
he said     looking back
                             at beauty

-- Grace Paley
Begin Again, Collected Poems

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Yesterday I took Genevieve to see an ENT doctor at Columbia Presbyterian, an excellent children's hospital conveniently located near us. As everyone who knows me already knows, Genevieve always has a cold. And, as her regular check-ups reveal, her colds are generally accompanied by fluid in her ears. At this point she likely has had fluid in her ears since November. The fluid itself is not the problem, though: it is her speech.

I've noticed for awhile that Genevieve is not learning many words. She is all about babbling and singing, but not so big on pronunciation. Of course she is only 15 months old, but by this age Ike had a much larger vocabulary than she has; he also made different sounds like ba and da and ga from a very early age. Genevieve does not. I've been working on getting her to say "nose" for months now. And while she knows where her nose is, and my nose is, and Ike's nose is, only occasionally does she try to say "nose"--and then she just says "nnnnnnn." She can say "mama" and occasionally "papa" but the sounds are pretty garbled. "Bye-bye" would be impossible to identify if it wasn't accompanied by a wave. She is big on gestures--shaking her head for "no" and "yes" and a lot of grabbing and pointing. I've been a little concerned about this, but I know all children develop at different speeds. And she is hearing two different languages, both French and English, and bilingual children often develop speech slower than children learning one language.

But our trip to the ENT yesterday revealed that her speech is most certainly affected by the fluid in her ears. She did poorly on her hearing test, and the technician told me afterward that a normal speaking tone is like a whisper to her. She is hearing as if under water. The doctor said that if a child goes longer than three months with fluid in their ears, it is unlikely that the problem will go away on its own. He recommended we consider surgery to insert tubes into the ears to drain the liquid. Additionally, he said she may benefit from the removal of her adenoids, which may be causing her chronic colds.

This seems like a lot of surgery for a mostly-healthy 15-month-old. And it's scary for me for many reasons: for example, she'd have to go under general anesthesia. And I don't know what else this could entail, with the surgery or without. I want her to be able to hear, to develop speech normally. But I also don't want her to have surgery unnecessarily. I bought myself another month to think about it, making an appointment for another hearing test in April. I spoke with our regular pediatrician last night, and am trying to find out all I can. I'm throwing out her pacifiers to cut back on the number of colds, and limiting sippy cups to meals as drinking while lying down may add to the problem. And maybe Spring, which seems to have arrived early, will help.


Julia said...

I am sorry to hear about this. She is so darn pretty and one look into that face tells me she is very bright. General anesthesia is a scary prospect, I agree, but I have known other little ones who have gone through that. You were smart to figure out what was going on.

I love the poem, by the way.

Kris Livovich said...

What a sweet picture. I'm sorry to hear about her clogged ears. My nephew did have tubes put in with no ill effects, from anesthesia or otherwise. I do hope it clears up without needing surgery, though.