Sept 2020 KWCH
When you meet 13-month-old Connelly Benton, you soon learn he’s a little boy who is ready to explore. Thanks to advancements in medical technology, his world is one that’s becoming acoustically vibrant. “He has gotten used to it now the last couple of days and has been just so focused on everything that’s going on, and he’ll study things that are making noise,” said Connelly’s mother, Jordy Benton. “He’ll be very curious and look at it and be like is that what’s making the noise. It’s really cool to see this light bulb go off. The initial activation, he was a little overwhelmed, a little upset, but once we got back in the car, kind of got back home, he just really came into his own as far as listening to sounds. We played some music for him for the first time, and he just lit up like crazy. Started jumping around, started singing, his version of singing,” said Connelly’s father, Tanner Benton. “The past couple of days have been excellent. He’s picked up a couple of words, new words, and then he’s just been babbling just a bit more. A lot more vocalization.”
On September 1, the toddler’s cochlear implant was activated, giving him a new means of perceiving sound. “A modified sense of hearing and now because of this, we can sing him our favorite music, he can more comfortably navigate the hearing world, where that would have been much more complicated and not as comfortable otherwise. We are so, so thankful and happy for this technology and it means a lot for our whole family,” said Jordy. It was the day Jordy got to sing to her son and see him smile brightly back. “We were very nervous and very excited for that day.” Jordy said, “We went to Oklahoma City, to Heart for Hearing, and that is where we’ve had all of this done. They put the microphone piece onto the outside of his head that you can see, it’s the black piece. They had already surgically implanted an internal piece that makes all of this work that goes right into the hearing organ, the cochlea.”
Connelly’s mother, Jordy Benton, said Connelly was just shy of two months old when she and her husband, Tanner Benton, learned their then-infant son was hearing impaired. “We actually found out when he was seven weeks old. We went in for more testing and found out that he had profound bilateral central neural hearing loss,” Jordy Benton said. “This is from a recessive genetic trait we both had no idea we carried.” Connelly’s father, Tanner Benton said, “As a parent, when you first hear that your kid is deaf, there’s just a ton of things running through your mind as far as if he is going to have a normal life, as far as what you envision.”
While Connelly does wear hearing aids, his parents said they don’t allow them to hear what’s being spoken. “He knows even more sign than he knows spoken language, mostly because the hearing aid he currently uses doesn’t allow for much spoken language to get in, so he actually knows a lot of sign words,” said Connelly’s mother.
This week brought excitement for Connelly and his family as the toddler finally can hear the world like never before. The implant is Bluetooth-enabled, which allows them to stream music and other sounds directly through it. “Basically, no music will play on the phone, and then you’ll just see him dancing and acting crazy,” said Tanner. Jordy added, “He can listen to baby shark a million times, and we get to keep our sanity.”
Tanner Benton said Connelly’s new world gives the family some peace of mind that he’ll more easily be able to develop speech and language. “He’s going to be able to socialize a lot better,” Tanner Benton said. “Just have a little bit better shot at going to school, communicating.” “We always knew that he’s our son, no matter what. We love him, and really, it’s been brilliant. It’s been beautiful, and he’s perfectly him,” Jordy Benton said of her toddler son. She added, “Although people who are deaf, navigate the world very easily with sign language and we do make that a big part of our lives, but this will create just a little more ease and comfort in his life.”
For right now, Jordy and Tanner are taking it all in as Connelly has a new way of exploring the world around him.