Lions honor hearing aid service
Winchester — Since the 1970s, Hearing Aid Services Inc. has partnered with local Lions Clubs to help the hard of hearing who can’t afford services receive help.
It was about time they were recognized for it, said Leo Schweiger, head of the hearing recycling program for the Host Lions Club in Winchester.
The local chapter recently honored the company with the 2013 Distinguished Service Award for its contribution to the hearing aid recycling program and for helping to people in need through the years, he said. This was the first time the award was given.
“The average cost of a new hearing aid is $1,000,” he said. “For some people, that is just impossible.”
The hearing aid recycling program is a major endeavor for Lions clubs nationwide, said Dave Michel, who helps Schweiger with the hearing aid program. “It is not an easy or inexpensive program,” and it is dependent on organizations like Hearing Aid Services.
“The reason the award has been given is because of the exemplary service over a long period of time,” he said.
The company’s main office is in Winchester, but it also has offices in Strasburg, Woodstock and Front Royal, all of which work with their local Lions club chapters, said Martha Artz-Cain, the company’s president.
The partnership between the clubs and the company started in the 1970s with founder Allen Thomas and has been a constant way to serve the community, she said.
“We do this every day as far as helping people hear better, but it’s nice to help people in need,” said Artz-Cain, a certified hearing aid specialist.
Lions clubs nationwide collect thousands of adult hearing aids each year to have them refurbished or used for parts that earn clubs credit toward aids for people whose lives are adversely affected by hearing loss, Schweiger said.
The local club has hearing aid recycling boxes stationed at various locations, such as Hearing Aid Services Inc., 522 Amherst St., Winchester, and Shenandoah Head and Neck Specialists of Winchester, 142 Linden Drive, Suite 106.
Shenandoah Head and Neck also participates in the program by seeing people referred by the Lions club, Schweiger said.
The donations range from antique to new models to custom-fit hearing aids, he said. While all donations are appreciated, the ones that do the most good are the digital, behind the ear hearing aids.
People usually donate aids when they are getting new ones or when a loved one has died and families don’t want them to go to waste, said Tootie Rinker, an audiologist at Hearing Aid Services.
The aids are sent to a national hearing aid company, where they are used for parts, Rinker said. The Lions club chapters who collected the aids receive credit toward refurbished aids for the people they help.
The Lions club needs more donations to be used for credit, so it doesn’t have to dip into its funds for program participants, she said.
“They are able to help more people that way,” she said. “If they had to buy new ones, the money would not go very far.”
There is currently a waiting list with the program because it can only help a limited number of people a month, Rinker said. Part of that is about having the funds, but it is also a matter of time.
The staff donates its time for the testing, fitting and follow-up care, and it can only fit so many of those appointments in between its regularly scheduled patients. But the business is part of the community and wants to help as many people as possible, she said.
“We have a responsibility to help where we can just like everybody else,” she said.
Applicants do not apply directly to a hearing aid specialist; they have to apply to their Lions club chapter or another referring agency such as C-CAP, Schweiger said.
The average cost of the program varies depending on the patient’s needs and the resources available at the time, he said. It could be a few dollars all the way up to several hundred.
If the club has credit and a refurbished aid is available, that is the most efficient use of their resources, he said. But the club also has purchased new hearing aids when necessary.
For information on donating a hearing aid or applying for a refurbished one, contact Schweiger at 540-665-2899.
— Contact Laura McFarland at email@example.com