Health Concern: Hearing loss from complications due to chronic ear infections.
Treatment: Surgery and hearing aids.
While riding his bike or scooter, shooting basketballs or running around the neighborhood with his friends, Dalton Welch is just like every other energetic 12-year-old boy.
However, Dalton was born with William’s Syndrome, a genetic disorder. His mother, Lisa, explains, “It causes developmental delay and a lot of craniofacial issues.” Dalton has malformed ear canals. Fluid would settle in them, and he had chronic ear infections that required years and years of tubes. Because of the constant infections, he developed a cholesteatoma, a cyst-like growth, in his left ear.
Lisa says, “We were finally referred to a surgeon at Ochsner, Dr. [Timothy] Molony.” Dr. Molony performed two surgeries, the last a mastoidectomy of the left ear. A serious procedure, it resulted in a very uncomfortable recovery for Dalton. A protective device had to stay in place over the left side of his head for some time, making it difficult to sleep.
While the surgeries were successful in halting the infections, Dalton’s left ear was filled with scar tissue, causing profound deafness in that ear. His right ear is medium-to-mildly hearing impaired. Dr. Molony referred Dalton to the Istre Hearing Care Center to be fitted with hearing aids.
Dr. Clifton Istre noted that because the ear had grown back in a different position after the mastoidectomy, plastic surgery was needed before the hearing aids could be fitted. He helped to make the needed arrangements with Ochsner, and when Dalton healed from that surgery, he got the hearing aids.
Lisa says that the moment Dalton’s hearing aids were turned on was priceless. “It was a moment I’ll never forget. Dr. Istre would clap and say, ‘Do you hear that?’ And clap! ‘Do you hear that?’” Dalton says he remembers humming to himself in the car the whole way home.
Dalton’s newfound hearing proved life changing for his family. It solved some minor irritations: “[Before,] he would watch TV like an old man. It would be blasting! We would yell, ‘Turn that down! Turn it down!’” says Lisa. It’s also made it easier for Dalton, an avid gamer, to play video games on his Xbox and Wii.
The most important thing for Lisa as a mom of an active boy is that he can hear traffic coming. “I was really concerned about that. I do have the ‘hearing-impaired child’ signs outside, but it doesn’t make a difference to some people. Just being able to let him go outside without worrying about his not hearing a car coming up behind him was major for me.” Dr. Istre adds that the ability to tell direction is also a help.
Dalton’s ability to do well in school, both academically and socially, has benefitted tremendously. “He’s paying attention instead of zoning out because he can’t hear anything in class. He’s participating more, and he’s not as frustrated.” Also, Dalton’s friends are less frustrated with him, as he no longer asks “What?” all the time in conversation.
Dr. Istre says this is very important for schoolchildren and ties in to their self-esteem. “When you have a hearing a loss like he has, it gives the impression that you’re not that swift.”
Lisa believes her experience with Dalton can be a valuable lesson to other parents. “This could really be any kid who has chronic ear infections that might develop a cholesteatoma and cause permanent injury. People think, ‘Oh, it’s just ear infections,’ but even kids without all the other issues Dalton has can really have some damage done to their ears.”Filed under: Departments, Health, IN Better Health, May-June 2011, You and Your Family