Young Patients with Hearing Loss Are All-Stars On and Off the Field

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Hank Aaron once said, “You may not think you’re going to make it. You may want to quit. But if you keep your eye on the ball, you can accomplish anything.”

This inspirational quote is obviously about baseball, but it can apply to so many different aspects of life. On Saturday, exceptional children from the University of Miami Health System Children’s Hearing Program (CHP) proved just that when they were the guests of honor at the Miami Marlins baseball game against the Atlanta Braves.

UHealth’s CHP, which is focused on meeting the specific needs of children with hearing loss, ages birth to 18, partnered with the upcoming feature film Rally Caps for this special event to help raise awareness for hearing loss. “It is the first time that the Marlins have selected hearing loss as part of their Impact Week—Baseball for All initiative,” said Chrisanda Sanchez, Au.D., FAAA, the interim director of the UHealth Children's Hearing Program.

Joining the big leagues

The first special guest at the game was 15-year-old Kylie, who threw the ceremonial first pitch.

She is now part of an exclusive club of famous people, including most U.S. Presidents since William Howard Taft, SimoneBiles, and even Bill Nye the Science Guy. Thankfully, Kylie is already a pitcher on her softball team, so she’s had plenty of practice.

According to her mom, Danielle Guthrie, Kylie lost her hearing suddenly in the 5th grade. At first, they had trouble getting a diagnosis. Ms. Guthrie insisted on a second opinion and was referred to the UHealth Children’s Hearing Program. The experts at CHP confirmed that Kylie was deaf, and it was a race against time to get cochlear implants to ensure the best possible hearing and speech outcomes. As with most children who receive timely hearing intervention, there is a high potential to achieve normal speech and language development.

Today, Kylie is a typical shy teenager who is very intelligent, and, according to  her mom, sometimes too smart for her own good. “When people see her now, she talks normally,” says Ms. Guthrie, who is very grateful for the specialists at CHP. “I can't thank them enough for what they did for me and what they did for Kylie."

The seventh-inning stretch

Kylie wasn’t the only star of the night.

Later in the game, several children from the UHealth CHP showed off their singing skills. Before the game, 8-year-old Mason said he was excited about the Marlins game because his mom told him that he’d be able to sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” on the field during the 7th inning stretch.

Mason attended the Debbie School for much of his early childhood, said his mom, Angie Martinez. Located on the University of Miami medical campus, the school is an auditory oral educational program for children with hearing loss.

Born prematurely at 33 weeks, Mason did not pass his newborn hearing screening. According to Ms. Martinez, the experts at the UHealth Children’s Hearing Program diagnosed Mason with bilateral

auditory neuropathy. Following his diagnosis, Mason received a cochlear implant and a hearing aid, and was referred to the Debbie School.

“I feel like they really helped me,” said Mason. “They

helped me with hearing and to be able to fully hear words and sounds and also say sentences.”

Mason’s mom agrees. “I believe that Mason was able to really tune into listening and talking there at the Debbie School, which was kind of my goal for him with his hearing devices,” she says. “Now Mason is in the second grade and is in the gifted program at his school.”

Rooting for the home team

Another member of the chorus, David, 8, said he was "so happy to go to the game and sing" with his schoolmates from the Debbie School. An active and curious boy, David likes math and music.

Milagros McNally, David's mother, explained that her son received bilateral cochlear implants at eight months old, so he hears and understands practically everything. She recounted that her baby failed the routine hearing test two days after birth. After taking him to various doctors and hospitals, David's parents were eventually connected to the UHealth CHP.

Mrs. McNally is delighted with the UHealth CHP and appreciates the professionals who have cared for her son.

"All the doctors, therapists, and people who work on the project, who help the children adapt to their implants and to this process, have taken us by the hand," she said. "They assured us that everything was going to be fine, that I would not regret the decision for David to have his surgery. And so it has been. Truly, any needs we’ve had, whether psychological, for support, with more therapies, with referrals to other doctors, they are really there, always ready to help and provide answers."

Children’s Hearing Program is a home run for patients

According to Ivette Cejas, Ph.D., Director of Family Support Services at the CHP, these children highlight the extraordinary accomplishments of their patients. “Children with hearing loss can do whatever they put their mind to, just like every other kid,” said Dr. Cejas.

Both Dr. Sanchez and Dr. Cejas say that events like the Miami Marlins Impact Week are essential to raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with pediatric hearing loss and hearing technology. The Saturday event also provided hearing screenings and educational opportunities to learn about pediatric and noise-induced hearing loss and hearing technology.

Early hearing detection and intervention are among CHP’s primary goals. Since the period for language learning is from birth to age three, early diagnosis of hearing loss is essential.

Being in the stands gave our patients and families the opportunity to educate the South Florida community on hearing loss, said Dr. Cejas.

“Encouraging the public to participate in our pregame events and to witness our patients throwing the first pitch and singing the 7th-inning stretch positively showcases that our kids can do anything,” said Dr. Sanchez.


Written by UHealth contributors Natasha Bright, Dana Kantrowitz, and Cory Zacharia.