Hearing Loss and Helmets

For young New Yorkers, a scooter is a rite of passage. Walk down West End Avenue, and you will inevitably see a two-year old child (or younger!) careen by in one. Their hands holding the handrails tightly. Their mouths frozen in a smile that borders hysteria; intense fear in their eyes.  Years ago, I swore to Yan that we would never get one for our future child.

Fast forward to this past Spring. Sonya (seated in her stroller) would point at children on scooters on our way to school. “I want that!” she told me. “I want a purple one!”

“Uh huh,” I said. Trying not to encourage it.

“Mom!” Sonya’s eyes lit up. “We can go buy one at the store!” It wasn’t a demand as much as a realization.

A week later, I gave in (yep…I know….judgers gonna judge). We went to West Side Kids toy store, and Sonya picked out the scooter of her dreams. She was so thrilled she rode it out of the store.

Here she is enjoying her first ride:

West Side Kids only had a limited selection of helmets. We went with a Nutcase helmet – mainly because they were cute (again…I know). Sonya picked one out with pink and orange flowers. The sales person removed some of the styrofoam protection on the inside, so that the coils of her CIs would not fall off as soon as we put it on.

Unfortunately, the helmet didn’t work. It either hung too loosely (and would knock of her CIs every time she turned her head) or would be too tight to put on with the CIs comfortably and without sliding her headband down her forehead in front of her eyes. It was also impossible to tell if the CIs were working or not. The helmet blocked me from seeing the front of her processors (which blink green if the CIs are working and yellow if not).

After a couple falls we put the scooter away. Sonya didn’t want to ride it anymore, and I didn’t want her to either – not until we had a solution that didn’t involve her riding without a helmet or without sound.

Per the advice of a friend (who’s son faced a similar dilemma), I took Sonya to Bicycle Renaissance to see if they could fix her helmet. After careful inspection, the salesman told me the Nutcase helmet was just not right for her. She needed something bigger with a flexible inside so that we could adjust it to fit her CIs. He suggested a Bern.

I bought Sonya a Bern Unlimited Jr. helmet from Amazon. I love it so far. The main positive is it has a velcro strap in the back that easily allows us to customize the fit to her head – with the CIs on. I can easily see the CIs blinking on her ears (as the helmet rests a bit further back on her head), and yet the coverage is still very good (with a sun visor no less). Sonya loves the bright pink color and wears it when we are home for fun. Win win!

 

Today, Sonya talks frequently about her scooter. She points to it proudly and declares “that’s mines!” each time we get out of the elevator to our floor as it sits in our hallway outside of our apartment. Unfortunately, she isn’t yet feeling up to riding it (and we aren’t pushing her to do so). She is a pretty cautious child after all, and a couple of those falls weren’t pretty. That said, I feel better knowing that at least we have a helmet that fits in the event she decides to give it another whirl (that is until she outgrows it…. I guess we have a couple months :).

Peppa Pig Saves the Day

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For weeks we struggled with Sonya’s persistent desire to remove her CIs. Nothing seemed to work. Nothing, that is, until in desperation we turned on our computer and let her watch Peppa Pig on YouTube. Sonya was immediately transfixed. Maybe it was the bright colors, the cheeky anthropomorphic animals, or the simple drawings. It might have had to do with the fact that one of Sonya’s first toys was a stuffed Peppa Pig doll. Whatever it was, Sonya wanted to hear this show. She pointed to her ears and sat still so that I could put her processors behind them.

This approach has worked 100 percent of the time. Even better is the fact that she is taking her processors off less often.

Our speech therapists have rallied behind this development. We incorporate Peppa and her family into speech therapy. Using a Melissa & Doug Wooden Doorbell House, we place a member of Peppa’s family inside each of the four doors. From there, Sonya must say “Hi Peppa Pig” or “Hi Mummy Pig,” etc.

Though I am happy we found a solution, I was initially disappointed to find that videos were the key to keeping Sonya’s processors on. I felt like in some way I had failed her. That I was taking the easy way out. I didn’t even want to admit to it on this blog. I worry that I may have opened Pandora’s Box. Perhaps Sonya will realize that I have no Plan B and will simply take her CIs off whenever she is in the mood to just zone out and watch TV.

While we are not a family that has forbidden screen time, we have tried to limit it. We allow Sonya to watch TV for about 15 minutes in the morning before breakfast and when we are driving to therapy and back. I am trying to phase out mindless videos and focus on interactive iPad games such as Daniel Tiger, Peek-a-Boo Barn, Toddler JukeBox, and My Very Hungry Caterpillar instead. I think that most everything in moderation is okay, and that some screen time that serves a purpose is okay.

But I have decided to be less harsh on myself. I’ll cross the above bridge if/when I get to it. For now, the importance of her being connected to the world of sound outweighs the potential negative side-effects. Including the fact that the theme songs to Peppa Pig seems to be burned in my brain.

On the other hand, how adorable would it be if Sonya learned to speak with a British accent?!

Fashionable Hearing Aid Solutions

One of the most challenging aspects of having a baby who wears hearing aids was how to keep them on her head! Like most babies, Sonya must put everything in her mouth. Hearing aids included.

It is critical that Sonya keep her aids on, however, for as much of the day as possible. We were left scratching our heads as to how this could be accomplished? It sometimes took up to five minutes just to get them on her only for her to quickly take them out and stick them in her mouth. Adorable, and yet extremely frustrating.

Our speech therapists and audiologists had the following suggestions:

Option 1: In our hearing aid kit provided by Early Intervention (EI) we received Phonak Leo the Lion kids clip, which is a cord that attaches to the hearing aids and clips on to the back of Sonya’s shirt. Sonya didn’t love the clip. She noticed the cords when she turned her head and immediately pulled at it. I also didn’t love the look of it. Bright green with a lion cartoon on the clip. Cute – but also drew attention to her hearing aids. The quality also seemed to be lacking a bit.

Option 2: Phonak Stick ‘n Stay hearing aid stickers. We also received a pack of 30 pairs of clear sticky pads, which hold the hearing aids to Sonya’s ears. I used these for a good month – and they seemed to help initially. However, once Sonya learned to take them off, they lost their effectiveness as they were no longer sticky once removed. I also found the packaging frustrating to open and the stickers were time consuming to apply. The upside is this tape is a more sensitive solution for baby’s ears, leaving no residue and can be easily applied and removed. A good – but not perfect solution.

Option 3: Pilot caps. I for the record thought Sonya looked like a cute little aviator in these baby pilot caps we purchased at Hanna Anderson. Perfect for Spring, they held the hearing aids in place. She never bothered with them. Style-wise, they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. My sister-in-law thought it looked like a swim cap. Nonetheless they worked. Polarn O. Pyret also sells a similar version.

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Option 4: Crochet baby headbands. By far my favorite. Sonya looks adorable with these vibrant headbands which are comfortable to wear and hold the hearing aids firmly in place. I bought a pack of 30 for $15 through Amazon Prime. We have one that matches pretty much every outfit Sonya owns. She gets tons of compliments when she wears them. Win-win!

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Option 5: With the summer months upon us, Sonya typically wears her sunhat everywhere we go – and I have found this to be a great option as well. The best kind tie under the chin and have UV protection. Polarn O. Pyret makes a great one with an elastic band that holds the hat in place around the head and a slightly wider brim in the back to protect the shoulders and back. The hat also keeps her hearing aids in place without a problem.

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Do you have any other ideas? Feel free to let me know! I’ll be interested in hearing about any options that will work particularly well with Sonya’s new cochlear implants.