Baby, Can you Hear me?

Early detection of illness significantly increases effectiveness of treatment

"The twins may have retinopathy of prematurity, which could lead to blindness,” said the doctor. At that moment, all the joy and elation Karen Miller of Wallkill felt as she gave birth to her daughters, Emily and Julianna gave way to anxiety and nervousness.

“The twins were born twenty-seven weeks old. When they brought me up to speed on their health problems, I was very nervous, but I knew they were in good hands,” said Miller. “I wanted my girls to be healthy and I knew they were getting the treatment they needed.” After a year of monthly testing, only Julianna needed glasses and now at age five, the two are leveling off health wise.

Retinopathy of prematurity is a debilitating disease that if not caught early will lead to blindness and other serious complications. It is a relief to know that doctors can detect many impairments early on so your baby can get the treatment. We asked Hudson Valley specialists how they detect vision and hearing problems in children, how they treat it and how parents can handle these stressful situations. Here’s what they had to say.

Who's your favorite doc?

Talk to a specialist

“When children are first born, they have their hearing tested,” says Debbie Dziedzic, senior audiologist at Hudson Valley ENT. “If hearing loss is established, hearing aids are placed and they are referred to Early Intervention.”

Early Intervention is a program that assists parents of children with disabilities. Early Intervention helps parents ensure that their children are being monitored with age appropriate testing. “Infants are given behavioral testing to see if they respond to noise,” says Dziedzic. “Toddlers are given play tasks, such as ‘drop the ball into the bucket when you hear the noise’ and older children are given more conventional testing.”

“Often parents are surprised to find that some disabilities are hereditary,” says Dziedzic. “If the parent has a long lineage of impairment, we ask that the child be brought in annually or more frequently to monitor them. Sometimes impairment may not be seen until later in life.”

Know when to get tested

A lot of children are born farsighted. It is suggested that you wait six to twelve months to make an appointment to see if they have healthy eye sight. One major clue in detecting hearing and vision impairments is a lack of response. If your child is not hitting their milestones, you may want to consider testing.

Find the right pediatrician for your children

“I had no idea there was anything wrong with my daughter, Michelle’s vision," says Matthew Meltzer from Wappingers Falls.  Meltzer brought one of his other children to have their eyesight tested and was surprised to find out Michelle was suffering from strabismus, a disorder in which the eyes do not line up in the same direction. “The doctor said he wouldn’t charge us for the impromptu check-up, but we needed to go straight to an Ophthalmologist,” said Meltzer. “All I wanted to do was get my little girl better.”

Another thing to consider is having all of your children tested. “If one sibling has issues, we like to watch the other siblings,” said Virginia Feldman, MD at Hudson Valley ENT. “In some circumstances it might not be necessary, but it’s nice to have precautionary measures in place and to monitor development.”

Take action

When you suspect your child has hearing or vision problems, it’s important to get doctors involved right away. It’s also important to not blame yourself for any impairment your child might have. While you’re taking action with your child’s health, don’t forget about yourself. Talk with someone about the issues you and your child face.

Meltzer’s daughter, Michelle, began receiving treatment for her vision impairment at the age of two. Now she is thirty years old. She’s had four corrective surgeries for her eyesight. Her last surgery at the age of nineteen showed an incredible progress in her medical treatment. “They sliced the muscle in her eye and put a slipknot stitch in so it s

tayed loose. They moved the eyeball back and forth and then tied it up when they were satisfied, said Meltzer. “When we came home, I threw a teddy bear at her and she caught it. She cried, realizing she finally had depth perception.”

As parents, we want to keep our children healthy and a great place to start is with a routine check-up. If you’re anxious about a perceived symptom, don’t procrastinate. Even if it turns out to be nothing, you will not know or have peace of mind until your child has been examined.

Anthony Geras is HV Parent’s editorial assistant. Born with health complications, medical treatment and Early Intervention made a world of difference in his life.