Grant helped fund toddler hearing test

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Preston was able to move in and out of his mother’s, Stephanie Anderson, arms during the test.

Liliana Castillo

While having his hearing tested, 15-month-old Jaxson Preston was able to bring his mother almost the entire alphabet in magnetic letters.

Preston’s freedom to roam while being tested was granted by the Vivosonic Diagnostic System.

The system is a small machine a child can wear on his back with sensors attached to his forehead and ear. A built-in microprocessor generates sounds and analyzes the child’s brains’ responses to the noise.

The pack, called the Vivolink, wirelessly transmits signals to a laptop, enabling an audiologist to analyze data as the child plays.

The system allows audiologists to test hearing on children at a much earlier age.

Clovis Schools was able to purchase one of these systems after receiving a grant from the Clovis Municipal Schools Education Foundation. The foundation provided the last $5,000 of the $20,000 purchase price.

Rachel Lingnau, an audiologist with CMS, said the test allows her to test a small child’s hearing through an Auditory Brain Stem Response.

For most children, hearing is tested in kindergarten or first grade by wearing headphones and signaling to a nurse when they hear a beep.

The new system allows hearing to be tested as early as needed. Also, children who have behavioral problems or are medically fragile can now be tested.

“This machine is unique. It’s one of the only ways to obtain an ABR on a child that is awake and playing,” she said.

Lingnau said an ABR can take about two hours. Without the new system, a small child would have to be sedated for the long test.

Lingnau said when children in Clovis need an ABR, they had to travel out of town, usually to Albuquerque.

Clovis resident Stephanie Anderson said her son Jaxson didn’t pass a hearing test in one of his ears after he was born. After a few health issues, Jaxson had to be sedated for a procedure.

“He fought for an hour and a half before they could calm him down enough,” she said. “This is better. He didn’t like being asleep.”

The Education Foundation distributed about $25,000 worth of grants to teachers across the district in November. Executive Director Jan Cox said that the foundation will award more grants in October.

“The committee was excited that the equipment would give early identification to children so that they wouldn’t have to go under anesthesia,” she said. “It’s really a neat thing that will make a difference for a lot of different children.”