Our patients are – and have always been – the real heroes of our history. So far in 2023, we’ve highlighted two remarkable young people who were born deaf, received cochlear implants at very young ages, followed by audiology care and speech-language therapy at Hearts for Hearing. Both their stories – and impressive accomplishments – inspire us. For our next patient hero feature, we thought you would enjoy meeting a baby and family in the earlier stage of their listening and talking journey. Let us introduce you to Elijah and his mom, Stormi.
When Elijah was born, he was “absolutely perfect” recalls his mom. “We didn’t think anything of it when he did not pass his newborn hearing screen, and we were told it was probably just fluid in his ear.” Elijah was referred for a routine follow-up which again he did not pass. “Even then, it wasn’t scary for me because we didn’t have any hearing loss in our family, so we didn’t think it was even a possibility,” says Stormi who adds, “thankfully our physician referred us to Hearts for Hearing where, at one-month old, he was given a much more comprehensive three-hour exam.” Stormi gets teary as she recalls, “About ten minutes into the test is when I began to realize this may actually be something.” She called her husband and asked him to come and meet her at the appointment because she didn’t think it was going to be good news. “Jillian, our audiologist, was super sweet when she came in after the test. That’s when we got the news, and it was obviously scary. We didn’t know what to expect, but Dr. Jillian was amazing and talked us through all options.”
When Elijah was 9-months-old, he received both cochlear implants at the same time because he was identified as profoundly deaf in both ears. Mom and Dad wanted Elijah to receive his cochlear implants at 6-months however that was initially denied by insurance reviewers who wanted to wait until one-year-of-age. “Thankfully, Dr. Jillian and Dr. Buchanan, our surgeon, were able to present information supporting earlier intervention for best outcomes.,” says Stormi. “On 2-22-22, Elijah received 2 cochlear implants, and we consider that his lucky day, and we celebrate that just like we celebrate his activation day which happened on St. Patrick’s Day 2022.” Stormi says the family will celebrate those days every year.
When asked how Elijah is doing, Stormi says “He is doing amazing at this point. He is on track with his age, and it’s all thanks to the resources we’ve gotten at Hearts for Hearing … the guidance … the consistency, being able to come in every week for speech has been so incredibly helpful.” The family has so much hope now and knows Elijah can do absolutely anything he wants to do. “We had thoughts in the beginning like how will he do in school? Will he be able to play sports?” says Stormi, “Now, all our fears have diminished.” When describing Elijah, the family says he is just a joy, he loves music – especially live music – and Dad is learning to play the guitar so he can teach his son to play one day.
The family loves how comfortable Elijah is at the Hearts for Hearing office and enjoys watching him take the lead when there; from punching the elevator button to standing at the reception desk waiting for the door to open. He tells everyone hello. Stormi says, “The ladies at Hearts for Hearing are like family to us. Other places, you get a diagnosis and then you’re on your own … go figure it out. It’s never been like that; they’ve helped guide us through every step. Elijah wouldn’t be where he is today without Hearts for Hearing.”
Stormi tells us Elijah’s younger sister Millie was recently diagnosed with hearing loss but they no longer have the fears they did when they learned of their son’s deafness, and says, “She’s going to do wonderful things like he is, and they’re going to have each other … I am excited to see how their relationship develops as they grow up … I know they’ll be close.”
“Don’t lose hope. Your child is perfect the way God made them. God has a plan, a path. Hearing Loss is not the end of anything, it is the beginning. The technology and speech-language therapy help make listening and talking – so many things – possible. Stick with Hearts for Hearing, and they’ll help guide you through the best course for your child.”
Hearts for Hearing was founded in 2003 with a mission of providing hearing technology and speech therapy services at no out-of-pocket costs to families with children who were born deaf. 20 years later, we are still teaching babies and children born deaf to listen and talk. Our services have expanded to include adult hearing care with offices in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Shawnee. Our team of professionals has grown from our original three people to 117 now. Hearts for Hearing continues to provide the first set of hearing technology and therapy to children at no out-of-pocket costs to families, and now includes Newborn Hearing Screen services, major research initiatives, Eyes Open Ears On programming, and its own 3D ear mold lab.