by Anna Ferraro
Even before birth, most babies are used to hearing and responding to auditory stimuli — their mother’s heartbeat, their father’s voice, and the sounds of the home that they will be born into. For a Jacksonville couple, Brent and Rebecca Heaton, their baby was an exception.
“Our journey began the day our son Cashton (“Cash”) was born,” shares Rebecca Heaton. His family welcomed his precious life with joy into their lives on July 11, 2019. Heaton continued, “Like all newborns, he went through the normal testing at the hospital, but unlike most others, he failed his newborn hearing screening.”
The hospital staff repeated the hearing test three more times, just to be sure, but unfortunately, he failed each screening. Heaton shared, “No one expects that their baby will be different than others.” A flood of emotions entered the Heaton’s world within just hours of their baby’s birth.
Thus began an emotional journey of undergoing more thorough testing with Southern Illinois University (SIU) Medicine audiologists. Brent Heaton shares, “We were slightly concerned as parents because neither my family or my wife’s had any history of hearing loss.”
Within a month of his birth, Cash underwent his first automated auditory brainstem response test (AABR). Heaton continued, “The test diagnosed that Cash indeed had moderately severe sensorineural hearing loss in his right ear and severe sensorineural hearing loss in his left ear.”
Brent and Rebecca Heaton shared, “When we first heard the diagnosis, we were a little overwhelmed. With all the concerns that come with a newborn, hearing loss was not at the top of that list.”
It didn’t take long, however, for these young parents to move into action mode. Teaming up with the audiologists at SIU Medicine, they embraced a new mission in their postpartum lives — help Cash hear. A key team member in this mission became audiologist Dr. Jaime Purdy — a doctor with patience, wisdom, and most importantly, a heart to get to know her little patient. It may take a few years to form words of gratitude for this particular team member, but for now, his friendly wave, and the way he lights up when he sees her coming is worth a thousand words.
At three months old, Cash received his first pair of hearing aids, ushering in one of the most incredible events of his life — hearing his parents’ voices for the first time.
Brent Heaton shared, “Since Cash has had his hearing aids, he has also received amazing help with his hearing development from a hearing therapist from ISD (Illinois School for the Deaf) … Cash has progressed from a 60% delay in speech and language to only a 38% delay in one year! Cash’s receptive language skills are on par with kids his age and will soon be starting speech to help catch him up on his spoken language.”
But beyond catching up on language skills, Cash is a happy, healthy boy who enjoys the sounds of his family’s world. He plays outside, dances to music, and romps with his dog Marley.
Brent Heaton shared, “Cash has received the very best resources and care from so many people. I’ve lived and worked in the Jacksonville area my entire life and am extremely blessed that our community is home to ISD and so many resources for kids with hearing issues … I cannot thank SIU’s audiology department enough for their amazing resources and support that was shown to our entire family!”
One of the best parts of the story for the Heaton family is that most of the resources to care for Cash came out of the Jacksonville community, and in many cases, they were able to complete his therapies from their own home.
To date, Cash is thriving with his hearing aids and is looking forward to a wonderful Christmas with his family, enjoying not just the sights, but also, the beautiful sounds of the season.