Health Team

CASTLE Center offers help to children with hearing problems

Posted May 23, 2013

— Eleven-year-old Parker Shoun loves music and dancing, but before he got cochlear implants in his ears, he couldn't hear the notes. 

Born in January 2002, Parker didn't pass a newborn hearing test, so his parents took him to an audiologist. The audiologist said Parker's hearing was fine, but his parents knew better.

"Imagine a 2-year-old with no language," said Parker's mother, Holly Shoun. "He was really difficult to keep in a chair and have a lesson with."

When hearing aids and special teaching didn't help, his parents took him to the Carolyn J. Brown Center for the Acquisition of Spoken Language Through Listening Enrichment (CASTLE), part of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

Director Hannah Eskridge said Parker's audiologist was not experienced enough in pediatrics. CASTLE, she said, specializes in hearing aids, FM technology and cochlear implants.

Parker was fitted for his first implant at age 3, followed by daily therapy at the center, which includes helping children use their new ability to hear to learn to speak.

It's the only program of its kind in North Carolina, and many families travel hours to get the help they need.

UNC hearing specialists help children across the state UNC hearing specialists help children across the state

"I know some of the other students were coming from Winston-Salem, Wilmington, driving every day," said Michael Shoun, Parker's father.

But a new CASTLE program called REACH allows the center's experts to connect with families through a computer screen.

"Now we can work with so many more families and so many more professionals without ever leaving the CASTLE Center," Eskridge said.

Summer Allison said REACH has been a huge help for her family. 

"It's very important for us," she said. "We live in western North Carolina, and we just don't have access to auditory verbal therapists."

Her 1-year-old daughter, Olivia, received hearing aids at 3 months and should have no speech delays when she begins kindergarten.

Parker is keeping up with his peers in fourth grade, but his late diagnosis, implantation and speech therapy are evident in his speech. Parker says he's fine with that.

"I'm like the only one (in my class) with cochlear implants, so I feel special," he said. 

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  • cblackman May 24, 12:06 p.m.

    Absolutely! My daughter at the age of 5 was admitted to a hospital with very high fever of unknown origin..3 antibiotics were started IV until cultures grew to reveal her illness...but, it was too late....the infection got better but the antibiotic permanently damaged the nerves for hearing....50% loss in both ears....I was too young to know what to ask...the pharmacies are mandated to counsel us on our prescriptions, but anything can be given in an IV inpatient and nothing is explained...I am not complaining....she lived due to that antibiotic...I would have preferred some advance warning this could happen...

  • sunshine1040 May 24, 9:11 a.m.

    Hearing loss at any age is hard to live with so please if you think your child is not able to hear keep on knocking on any and all doors. We are making strides but then we have setbacks too like Drs for years did not tell us that hearing loss could result from some meds