By Sarah Wibell
A video went viral early this month of 11-month old Scarlet Benjamin, a local baby who had just received hearing aids, laughing at the sound of her older sister’s voice. The video has been viewed over 19 million times.
“It has been a LONG and emotional experience,” Scarlet’s mother, Carol Dianne Benjamin, stated in a Facebook post. “She reacted to most sounds so we thought she could hear fairly well. After what I witnessed today, it was not as well as I thought.”
Born three months premature to Madison residents Carol Dianne and Dan Benjamin, Scarlet contracted necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), an intestinal illness in infants most often seen in premature babies. The website Stanford Children’s Health, associated with Stanford University, explained, “It is not clear exactly what causes NEC. It is thought that the intestinal tissues are somehow weakened by too little oxygen or blood flow. When feedings are started and the food moves into the weakened area of the intestinal tract, bacteria from the food can damage the intestinal tissues. The tissues may be severely damaged and die, which can cause a hole to develop in the intestine. This can lead to severe infection in the abdomen.”
In Scarlet’s case, the antibiotics used to treat the NEC caused hearing loss.
“The doctors said that antibiotics were pretty much the only thing we could do,” Carol Dianne recalled in an interview. Not knowing about the risk of hearing loss prior to the antibiotics being administered, she added, “I was a little worried about it, but I was more concerned with Scarlet’s overall health and her getting better. I was like, ‘We can do something about this later, but the antibiotics are what we needed to do right then.’ It’s been a long road, but it hasn’t been a bad one.”
The process to find the best option for Scarlet’s hearing involved a lot of testing. Her mother explained, “We had to have a bunch of different tests done – I think it’s called an ABR (auditory brainstem response) where you have to be asleep to monitor brain waves. We went to a few different places but ended up in Milledgeville. They got a clear scan and said she was at an age when they wanted her to get hearing aids.”
‘They’ was the Atlanta Hearing Associates out of Milledgeville who fit Scarlet with hearing aids. “Hearing aids use small microphones to collect sounds,” the Atlanta Hearing Associates’ website states. “They also contain a computer chip that converts the incoming sound, then analyzes it and adjusts it based on your hearing loss. You hear the audio signals through miniature speakers in your ears.” The information further notes, “Hearing aids can dramatically improve your hearing, but they don’t provide ‘perfect’ hearing. A hearing aid is exactly what it says – it is an ‘aid’ to help you hear better.”
“Hearing aids make a world of difference!” Carol Dianne posted on Facebook. “I am so blessed and thankful for Atlanta Hearing Associates in Milledgeville for all that they have done for our baby girl.”
“We’re doing really well,” she stated. “Scarlet’s starting to be a lot more active.”
In the video, Scarlet reacts to her big sister, Halie, who gently calls out, “Baby sister,” causing the infant to giggle, smile, and make those around her do the same.
“Halie was really excited about Scarlet hearing,” commented their mom who was a bit surprised by the video going viral. “It’s been really crazy. We’ve done a bunch of interviews. One was with HNL (a national news network) from CNN. The girls have been having a blast going and doing the different interviews. It’s good to raise awareness, but it hasn’t really changed anything in our daily life.”
For those individuals who watch the video, Carol Dianne commented, “enjoy one of the absolute best days of our lives. By the way, I’m crying, you’re crying, everyone is crying.”
To see the video that was filmed by a nurse with Atlanta Hearing Associates, go to https://cbsn.ws/2DcgTT1.