It’s August and the swimming season is in full swing, which for Hayley and lots of other deaf children invariably ends up with a trip to the doctor…
Thursday afternoon, at home
Hayley’s appeared in my office doorway, her palm pressed against her left ear, shoulder hunched up protectively, pain etched on her face. I’ve seen that look before.
“How long’s it been hurting?”
“On and off since yesterday,” she replies, allowing me to give her a hug (only acceptable on special occasions these teenage days, only brief and definitely not in front of anyone else).
Hmm, that was the day Hayley and her mates went swimming. Just before that, she’d taken her little nephew to the local pool and before that she’d been off at Cub camp as a young leader, which had involved many water activities.
It’s the same most summers, or whenever there’s lots of swimming. Sometimes one or other of her ears begins to hurt then subsides after a day or so, other times it turns mean and develops into an ear infection. I know many deaf children pick up ear infections easily when swimming, and Hayley’s no different.
She isn’t supposed to get her ears wet at all because she’s had mastoidectomies to remove cholesteatomas in both ears, so when she goes in any water (even the shower) she wears swim moulds made for her by the audiologist. There’s often a full blown panic when she’s packing to go away somewhere and suddenly can’t find her swim plugs.
But even so, however careful Hayley is, after lots of swimming, ear infections have a tendency to creep in.
I remember a long awaited holiday in Greece 10 years ago – it was blissful, most days were spent in the pool with her two brothers. But then the ache began, by bedtime it had turned into searing pain and Hayley, eight then, was up in the night crying in agony.
We set out early next morning in search of an ENT doctor in the main town. The lovely doctor, who was thrilled to see her mastoidectomy scar and hear the word cholesteatoma (of Greek origin I guessed?), did a very thorough examination and prescribed antibiotics. Thankfully the pills kicked in quickly and stopped the pain.
Not wanting to see the rest of her holiday ruined, the doctor said Hayley could go in the pool after a couple of days, but not put her head underwater. He also said to stop using her ear moulds, which would keep re-infecting her ears, and gave us some cotton wool and Vaseline to use instead. So all was not lost.
Right now, I’ll whizz her up to our GP to check if it’s an infection. I think it’s also probably time to ask for an appointment with the audiologist to check if Hayley needs new moulds made, in case her ears have grown.
Swim plugs – just another example of those extra little things that being deaf involves. But also one more thing that Hayley has learned over the years to manage herself on the road to independence.
Please note photo is not of Hayley.