Dennis's parents visited this week and we took a trip to Seneca Lake (one of the Finger Lakes). It was so beautiful, and the boys really loved playing on the playgrounds, hiking through Watkin's Glen, and driving the pontoon boat. Nolan's most favorite activity was driving around the lake.
We loved our vacation, though once it ended the spate of July medical appointments began. Nolan had a hearing test on Friday, July 6. He had been stable for a year, so I was hopeful we'd see the same audiogram we saw in December. If he was still stable, then we would be able to go to once-per-year hearing tests.
Unfortunately, his right ear decided to drop down to 70dB at 4,000Hz. This explains where his /s/ detection went! I can't remember his actual new audiogram, so the picture below is just an estimation. I'll post the "real" audiogram once I get it in the mail. His right ear used to be the "better" ear, but is now the "worse" ear. The black line is what he was able to hear in December, the red line is his approximate new hearing level:
This is a 15dB drop at that particular frequency, which is where f, s, th, and the softer sounds of speech are found. This is typical for Nolan, and usually the other ear drops to match the worse ear in a matter of months. His unaided speech discrimination dropped from 96% to 80% in that same ear, at a 90dB volume. His left ear is currently unchanged.
This was a bit of a bummer, but his hearing aids have been reprogrammed to match his current level of loss. I did manage to convince his audiologist to do aided speech discrimination. The current recommendation is to do aided discrimination at 55dB and at 35dB, as children won't "overhear" incidental language if they can't perceive soft speech. I didn't get any data at 35dB, but our audiologist did do aided discrimination at 55dB. With both hearing aids, Nolan has a wonderful 96% discrimination at 55dB (via sound field, using both hearing aids).
On the bright side, his "dead" hearing aid slowly came back to life. I simply kept running it through the Dry and Store, changing out dry bricks, and it began to give its feedback whistle again. For the first few days, it would cut out after an hour or two, but after about four days in the Dry and Store, it was "back to normal." Our audiologist checked it and it was right as rain, so that is a HUGE relief. We have been using Ear Gear ever since, just to protect them from humidity and sweat.
Since Nolan has decided to show some progression in his hearing level, another hearing test has been scheduled three months out from this one: he'll go back into the booth on October 8 to determine if his right ear is going to stay at 70dB and to watch his left ear - since it is likely to drop to the level of the right ear, too.
We also discussed new hearing aids. Nolan's Unitron Element 8's are still working, though we are having more frequent maintenance issues with them. They are also not as "up to date" as other hearing aids. I would really like to get Phonaks for him, because I am in love with his FM system. Phonak also makes water-resistant hearing aids that have sound-recover technology.
The hearing aids we're thinking of getting are the Phonak Nios S H2O, though I'm a bit nervous about selecting these because they have a maximum fitting range of 70-75dB hearing loss in the low frequencies. Since Nolan is already sitting at 65dB there, there is a great likelihood that he will "outgrow" the ability of these hearing aids to amplify his loss. When Nolan loses hearing, it tends to be 15-20dB in a single frequency, and the affected frequency is unpredictable. The Nios S can handle the high frequencies well (up to 90dB HL). I'm just a tad concerned about the low frequencies - I'd hate to get this hearing aid and then wind up needing a Naida (power aid) 2 years later. We'll see what his hearing does over the next few months and make our decision from there, I suppose!
The Phonak Nios S H2O