“Since day one he has heard the difference,” says his mom Stephanie Cabrera. “The first day he wore his hearing aids we went to McDonald’s and sat down, and he whispered in my ear, ‘Mom, I can hear what the people behind me are saying now.’”
The six-year-old made headlines last fall when the Children’s Hearing Program at the University of Miami Health System helped surprise him with a visit from his favorite NFL team, the Miami Dolphins, to go along with his new Phonak Sky V hearing aids designed specifically to match the team’s colors.
Since then he has worn his Caribbean Pirate and orange-colored hearing aids every day, slowly realizing in different occasions what he had previously missed out on, says his mom.
“Recently I was helping him with his spelling and I would say the words and notice he was having a tough time,” Cabrera says. “He was having trouble not really knowing what was the correct word was, until I realized he did not have his hearing aids on. I told him ‘Justin go get your ears on.’ (I call them his ears.) As soon as he put them I started over again. It was like night and day… he knew every word and every spelling.”
“It was like night and day… he knew every word and every spelling.”
Justin’s hearing loss was first caught by a school hearing evaluation, which was later confirmed by a pediatric audiologist, according to U Health. His Phonak hearing aids are designed specifically for children, allowing for better speech understanding in classrooms, which helps reduce concentration fatigue and enhance learning.
He’s now been able to keep up his good grades at school and speak more confidently, his mom says, but maybe what’s even more important to Justin is that he can now do everything his friends can do, without his hearing holding him back.
“I was worried that kids would make fun of him, but it has been the opposite,” Cabrera says. “All of Justin’s friends from school, or kids at the park have shown so much support. They remark about how cool they are.
“All of Justin’s friends from school, or kids at the park have shown so much support. They remark about how cool they are.”
“Now he’s starting baseball for the first time and is around new kids and new coaches, and these kids reactions to Justin was also amazing. He was nervous about sliding into base and getting sand in them, but I told him we will just dust them off! I don’t want Justin to think he is disabled or anything. I want him to feel that having aids will not and cannot stop him for any normal activities.”
It’s unclear what exactly caused Justin’s hearing loss, but he has genetic testing on Friday in hopes of getting a better idea on the cause and condition of his hearing, his mom says.
In the meantime, he plans to continue exposing his tough-enough hearing aids to all the dust, sweat and fun he can have.