After an ear operation at age two, Harrison dealt with chronic middle ear complications that have impacted his life. From hearing loss and struggling at school to not being allowed to swim, Harrison missed out on opportunities that every child should have.

Recently Harrison has been to see our audiologists in Nelson and has been fitted with custom earplugs. Earplugs have significantly improved his quality of life and set him up for a summer of running about and playing with his sister in the sea. We're thrilled to see how wearing hearing protection when swimming has benefited Harrison. 

How long has your son, Harrison, struggled with ear complications?

Harrison writing a card while wearing hearing aids
Harrison has struggled with hearing and ongoing ear complications due to an ear operation since he was two years old. He had hearing aids fitted at five years old after audiologists diagnosed his hearing loss due to significant learning and behaviour difficulties. 

It must have been a challenging time for the family. What ongoing ear complications has Harrison encountered?

Harrison's ear injuries have been caused by grommets (both ears have large perforations and some scar tissue). He has repeated ongoing infections that can last for months at a time. These infections frequently cause him pain, sleeplessness and dramatic changes in his behaviour. His ears leak continuously, which he has become self-conscious of. The treatment for this is often ear drops that are challenging to administer as he dislikes them. Harrison's ear issues are ongoing and vary in severity with each new infection (these are almost monthly, if not continuous).

Before looking at custom ear protection, what remedies did you try?

For swimming, we have tried six different swimming earplugs: ergo swim earplugs, malleable earplugs, swim caps, and ear bands/covers. Due to the difficult nature of children's little ears, none of these have worked; Harrison's sensory issues have contributed to the failure of many of these remedies. We have also tried nasal sprays, and frequent ear drops to prevent and cure any infections. These are not suitable long-term solutions for a young child and can worsen hearing loss if used over a long period. We are now at the point where keeping his ears dry is the only practical solution and the only remaining suggestion from our ENT specialist.

How do ongoing ear infections and complications affect your lifestyle?

Harrison's chronic middle ear issues have affected our lifestyle considerably. Firstly, at school Harrison's hearing loss impacts his learning. He wears hearing aids. However, when his ears are infected or leaking, he cannot wear his hearing aids due to pain or simply because they block instantly with the discharge from his ears. Therefore, his learning and behaviour are impacted significantly with hearing loss and distraction due to pain and discomfort.

On top of this, Harrison has not learned to swim. Living in the Marlborough Sounds, we are surrounded by water. Swimming is a necessary life skill that Harrison is missing out on. Due to his ongoing ear problems, the only solution our specialist now has is to keep his ears as dry as possible. This has meant that Harrison has missed out on crucial years of his life to learn water skills and water safety. We have attempted to use many different aids to enable Harrison to attend swimming lessons. Still, nothing has worked for him.
Harrison fishing
We have a heated swimming pool at school that the students swim in twice a day. Harrison has been missing out on most of these swimming opportunities due to ongoing infections. This affects his skills and makes him feel left out as he sees the other students swimming and knows it is something he cannot participate in. His fear of getting an ear infection has increased and makes him anxious about swimming where others are splashing too.

Finally, with our lifestyle being predominantly water-based outdoor activities, we have to consider Harrison's hearing loss and ways to keep his ears dry in all of our plans as a family. Harrison misses out on fun childhood adventures such as wharf jumping and snorkelling. Even when we are kayaking, Harrison becomes concerned when he is splashed because he now connects water in his ears and infection.

How do you think custom earplugs will benefit the quality of life for both you and Harrison?

With the moulded earplugs, we hope that Harrison will both tolerate them (with his sensory issues) as they are similar to his hearing aids. Our best-case scenario is that he will participate in school swimming, swimming lessons and fun summer water-based activities.

This will have a flow-on effect on improved behaviour and water confidence. His quality of life will improve significantly if we can keep his ears dry whilst enabling him to participate in activities with his classmates.

I know that this will support him in developing a positive relationship with school and encourage him to wear his hearing aids consistently. Doing so will significantly impact Harrison's well-being and academic progress.

It will enable us to have a more 'normal' family life without worrying about ear infections. It would mean fewer trips to town (a 6-hour return trip to the doctors) for medication, which increases Harrison's hearing loss over time.

Harrison currently associates water-based activities with painful ears. The new custom earplugs would enable him to have less fear in the water and enjoy swimming, kayaking, and wharf jumping this summer!

Harrison today

Today, Harrison is able to play in the water and has been swimming in his school’s pool. Laura has been back in touch with our Nelson audiologists and told them how happy Harrison is to be able to go under the water and have his ear stay dry.
Harrison swimming in a pool

Interested in wearing hearing protection when swimming?

If, like Harrison, you or your loved ones are struggling with swimming and keeping your ears dry, talk to us. Either give us a call on 0800 45 45 43 or come into our clinic to speak to our audiologists. We have a range of hearing protection available, from universal protection to custom made earplugs and are here to help.