Are your tāringa painted on?!

By Carley Ellis

As mum to two young boys and wife to one older one, I’m used to people in my household not listening to me.  But it was a huge surprise when my eldest son actually failed his “before-school” hearing check – I thought the hearing loss was selective!

We were told that his hearing quality was likely to be around 40% of its potential and left untreated could lead to big problems in the future. 

What kind of problems? Delayed speech and language development, ear infections, permanent damage to the ear drum. These are all pretty bad outcomes, but even more concerning was that it could also lead to behavioural problems later on.  Imagine being stuck in a classroom, trying to sit still when you can’t hear a word that the teacher is saying?!

After a trip to the GP, he was diagnosed with “glue ear”.  How does this happen? Well, our sons are very social day-care kids, and every day they bring home equal measures of sand, wet clothes, and plague-like viruses.  Even though it feels like we’re mopping up snot at a rate of 85 tissues to the hour, some of that fluid enters the ear canal and can’t drain out.  Thanks to their under-developed Eustachian tubes, the gunk ends up getting stuck behind the ear drum and stops it being able to vibrate efficiently.

Both of our boys had recurrent ear infections as infants, which meant we were dosing them up with full system rounds of antibiotics almost weekly.  The side effects of completely wiping out all the good and bad bacteria included terrible tummies, an inability to eat dairy, eczema flare ups, interrupted sleep (for everyone!), and countless days off work/day-care – resulting in a financial impact to our household too.

Thanks to an excellent GP and our health insurance, we could book in with an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist within a couple of weeks.  Surgeries were booked in, to insert grommets (ventilation tubes) into both ears for both boys.

Thanks to health insurance, we didn’t have to pay a dollar towards the $4500 surgeries. 

From my perspective, the real benefit in having this health insurance was the fact we were able to bypass the public system waiting lists – currently 19 weeks – to get these surgeries completed.  As a parent, being able to take tangible steps to quickly relieve your child of chronic pain and disrupted development is worth more than you can imagine.

Taking out medical insurance for children is so simple, with often just a short medical questionnaire. Even better, if you get them signed up before they turn three months old, chances are high they’ll have full, uncompromised cover with no exclusions.

Already cheaper than insurance on a pet, with health insurance, most providers keep the premiums the same from birth right through to age 21.

So what’s the outcome of this story? These days, we have two boys that are mostly happy and mostly listening to what I’m saying.

Now I can make a start on the oldest one, but something tells me that’s going to be a much harder row to hoe…