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Davich: Pastor profoundly thankful for regained hearing

FREE HEARING AIDS

Kevin Hand from Zounds Hearing of Crown Point is launching a new public service project to give back to Northwest Indiana.

“I want to give a free pair of hearing aids to someone in need every three months,” Hand said. “Ideally, these would be people who can’t afford hearing aids on their own and who would greatly benefit from a free pair.”

Nominations can be sent to Hand with a candidate’s personal story and his or her contact information. Send those nominations via email, at KevinHand@ZoundsHearingCP.com, or via mail to 113 E. 93rd Ave., Crown Point, IN. For more information, call 525-4139 or visit ZoundsHearing.com.

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Updated: August 19, 2014 6:09AM



The Rev. Tom Shanahan didn’t want to get his hearing tested once again.

He already suffered from 97 percent hearing loss in one ear and the other one was almost as bad. Another test wouldn’t bring back his hearing, he told himself.

When he was a boy, an empty pop can struck his left ear, injuring it permanently. As an 18-year-old U.S. Army soldier, a hand grenade exploded in front of him, piercing a hole in one eardrum and causing hearing loss in both ears. That took place in 1966.

Since then, his hearing gradually worsened. He couldn’t hear birds chirping. He couldn’t hear his putter hit a golf ball. He couldn’t even hear himself chewing gum. He leaned in close to converse with anyone. Eh? Ehhh?

Through the decades, various hearing aids didn’t work. They either amplified all the wrong sounds or caused him more grief than relief. He resigned himself to being called “hard of hearing” with all that entails.

So, he reasoned, why get his hearing tested again only to be reminded of such a dire diagnosis? What good would it do?

“Let’s try it anyway,” countered Kevin Hand, from Zounds Hearing of Crown Point. “It only takes five minutes for a screening.”

A couple months back, Hand offered free hearing screenings at Shanahan’s church, First United Methodist in Crown Point. Sure enough, the predicted results showed Shanahan had severe hearing loss.

“It was pretty ugly,” explained Hand, who suggested an office visit for a possible pair of hearing aids that may finally work.

Shanahan, who’s on Medicare as well as supplemental insurance, doubted either policy would cover such high-tech hearing aids. And he was right.

Hand, however, was convinced that his best hearing aids would become a “life changer” for this well-deserving Army veteran, grandfather and associate pastor. Still, Hand’s business acumen battled with his Christian conscience.

His store has been open for only a few months and, as with every small business, the first year in operation is a struggle. The word “profit” isn’t even whispered.

“On the other hand, I know that God has a way of presenting opportunities like this to serve others, even when it’s not convenient,” Hand told me. “I also have a deep admiration and respect for those who devote their lives to the church.”

After some soul searching, he invited Shanahan into his office to equip him with those hearing aids — the Imprezo20 — including a remote control to adjust them at any time. It’s one of the top-tier products from Zounds Hearing, a Phoenix-based company.

Shanahan left the office a new man, profoundly listening to many things he hadn’t heard for decades.

He again could hear birds singing. He could hear his granddaughter talking to him. He could hear his golf shoes as he walked across a putting green. He could hear his parishioners’ prayers from the last pews of the spacious church.

“It’s been amazing and it’s made a world of difference in my life, my faith, my job and even in my golf game,” Shanahan told me while standing near his church’s altar.

“I’ve always prayed for better hearing and I believe God put Kevin in my life by making sure I was here when he offered those screenings,” he said. “I totally believe that God sends people into our lives to help us, and I thank God each day for bring Kevin into my life.”

When Shanahan explained to me in great detail how much the hearing aids have enhanced his life, Hand could only smile. (Hear it for yourself by watching my video at posttrib.suntimes.com/news/davich/index.html.)

“I had no idea they meant this much to him,” Hand told me.

It’s easy for us to take our hearing for granted, I replied.

For much of my life, I have had a bit of a hearing problem, especially in noisy environments. So much so that I try to avoid such situations, straining to hear conversations that sound like the muffled voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher.

Like Shanahan, I have had to lean into too many noisy conversations at bars, parties or concerts, asking people to repeat themselves. Eh? Ehhh? Or worse yet, pretending to hear them with a polite nod, smile and default comeback.

It can be very frustrating. Embarrassing. Problematic.

“My only problem now is that I hear so well that I talk too soft sometimes,” Shanahan said proudly. “And at home I have to tell my wife to turn the TV down, not up, because it’s too loud.”

“I’m so much happier now than I was before,” he added. “You don’t realize what a gift it is to hear the beautiful sounds in our world until you lose that gift.”

I will talk with Hand and Shanahan on today’s “Casual Fridays” radio show. Tune in at noon Friday on 89.1-FM, streaming at lakeshore
publicmedia.org/local-programs/casual-fridays. Call in at 769-9577.

Connect with Jerry via email, at jdavich@post-trib.com, voice mail, at 713-7237, or Facebook, Twitter, and his blog, at jerrydavich.wordpress.com.



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