Hear ye, hear ye: UP Audiology gives away hearing aids

Photo provided by Melissa Collard From left, Virginia Perry, Theresa Cherubini and Laura Moore meet after winning U.P. Audiology’s inaugural contest for free hearing aids. About 40 people took part in the contest, for which they had to be nominated by friends or family.

HOUGHTON — To repay its customers for more than three years of support, U.P. Audiology gave the gift of hearing to three people over Christmas.

From the early days of the business, they had the idea that once it found its footing, it would give hearing aids to someone in the community with needs.

“We said, ‘Let’s just do this as a trial run, and if it works well, we’ll do it again next year,” said audiologist Melissa Collard.

People wrote letters to U.P. Audiology nominating someone in the community they wanted to receive hearing aids.

Aside from a couple of radio ads, a Facebook post and a mention on its website, they relied on word of mouth. From that, they got about 40 nominations.

“They’re so well-written, and heartbreaking,” Collard said. “We just sat around here, read letters and cried. But it was fun. It was a really cool experience.”

They tried to pick just one. That was hard, Collard said. One of their hearing aid manufacturers partnered with U.P. Audiology to provide them with hearing aids at a discount. After that, they were able to choose three recipients.

They did not go in with set criteria for who would win. An independent panel had also reviewed the letters, and members had wanted an exact scoring system, something Collard says will be added next year.

“All three of the people we chose have given so much to our community, to their families, just being good stewards for our community,” Collard said. “They’re three incredible people that we chose.”

The winners met when they came in for their re-check appointments after their fittings.

“They’re very sweet, very thankful,” Collard said. “It was neat for them to meet and share their experiences.”

Theresa Cherubini was nominated by her son, goddaughter and one of her son’s friends. She volunteers at a kindergarten class at C-L-K Elementary School.

“The children read to me, and I wanted to be able to hear them,” she said.

The gift was a welcome for for Cherubini. Insurance doesn’t cover the hearing aids, which she said would have cost around $6,000.

Not only is she able to hear her phone, she can answer it by pushing on one of the dials on her hearing aid.

Laura Moore was nominated by her former boss, Dr. Sally Weathersby. She had tried hearing aids out for a couple of weeks in November after getting her hearing checked.

That had been great, she said. Having them permanently is even better.

“I was so happy, because it’s such a difference going from not hearing to being able to hear,” she said. “I avoided situations because i couldn’t hear. I was constantly asking people to repeat things.”

Virginia Perry was nominated by her 10-year-old great-granddaughter and her daughter, Marcia Thomas.

Perry had known she had hearing loss since since her days at Celotex, where she retired as a sorter. But she couldn’t afford the hearing aid. She was able to compensate by closed-captioning and other means. But Perry is blind in one eye, and is losing it in the other.

“When I’d seen the contest, I thought, ‘God is good, so we’ll give it a try,'” Thomas said.

Thomas kept the news from Perry until it was time to get fitted for the hearing aids.

“I kept telling her it was too snowy to go that day, we shouldn’t try to do that day,” Perry said. “She did. You wouldn’t think about winning something like that. It was such a surprise.”

Now, Perry can hear her family well. And the little things, like floors creaking, or the microwave beeping.

“The first time I heard it beep when it was finished, I didn’t know what it was,” she said.