ENT Patient Dubbed Rookie of the Y(ear)

When 6-year-old Justin Matias left the hearing exam room at University of Miami Health System, he got the shock of a lifetime. Having just been fitted with his first pair of hearing aids — his first comment was, “This is awesome! I can hear better!” — he was surprised by family and friends as well as players, alumni and cheerleaders from his favorite team, the Miami Dolphins. Wide receiver Kenny Stills knelt to the floor and presented Justin with his first official personalized Dolphins jersey. He was then swept up into the celebration as family and friends cheered, doctors clapped and flashbulbs lit the room.

Justin first came to the Children’s Hearing Program at the University of Miami Health System after being referred for a suspected hearing loss that was caught by a school hearing evaluation. Pediatric audiologist Chrisanda Sanchez, Au.D., welcomed her new patient and confirmed that Justin did have significant hearing loss and would need hearing aids. But what she quickly also recognized was Justin’s fear of losing out on the one thing he loved most — football.

“By asking a few questions, it quickly became clear that Justin’s main concern was that wearing hearing aids and having hearing loss would prevent him from playing football,” said Sanchez. “I was able to relieve those fears, but also learned that his favorite team was the Miami Dolphins, for whom his pee-wee team was named. To give Justin an extra boost of confidence and as an encouragement for him to wear his hearing aids at all times, we were able to customize the devices in the Dolphins’ signature aqua and orange.”

When the Miami Dolphins learned of Justin’s new hearing aids and the connection through his pee-wee team, they immediately wanted to support Justin, agreeing to send alumni, Stills, cheerleaders and a media team to capture it all.

“This is what it’s all about,” said Dolphins alum Nat Moore during the surprise event. “You look at Justin, who loves the game, and is having some hearing difficulty, and to see what the University of Miami has been able to do, for us to be here is more fun for us and to pay tribute to the great fans we have in South Florida.”

While they are actively engaged in their home community, representatives from the Dolphins believe this is the first time the team has worked with a patient with hearing loss, and the attending physicians and audiologists were also delighted with the team’s interest in the subject matter.

“October is National Audiology Awareness Month, a time for us to remind the public that patients of all ages can suffer hearing loss,” said Sanchez. “It’s important for parents to realize that children can have difficulty hearing and not realize it, as was the case with Justin. It is crucial for children to have hearing exams when any concerns regarding a child’s hearing or speech development arise.

“The Dolphins being here put the spotlight on pediatric hearing loss and most importantly gave Justin an experience he will never forget. It is our hope that Justin will carry with him throughout his life the unbelievable support he was shown by the Dolphins, his family and teammates. We want to encourage Justin to wear his hearing aids with pride so that he is able to reach his full potential both on and off the football field.”

“I am very thankful that UHealth provided my son with such an amazing experience with the players and cheerleaders of the Miami Dolphins,” said Justin’s father, Jorge. “It made the transition much smoother and helped him gain the confidence that he is still just like any other kid.”

His mother, Stephanie, agreed.

“Just to see my son Justin have a smile from ear to ear, and knowing that the support he got from his doctor and the UHealth team with, of course, his favorite team, the Miami Dolphins, made my day and his day,” she said. “This is an event that will never be forgotten.”

And because boys will be boys, Justin’s brothers, Jorgie and Jordan, were heard saying, “Mom, we want to have some hearing aids to be like Justin!”

More photos from the event can be seen on Facebook.

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