By Caitlin E. Veri
Communications Coordinator, EarQ
One of Colleen Van Rooy’s earliest memories is touching her family’s television/stereo cabinet to feel the sound moving through it. As a child born with hearing loss, that was the only way the Appleton, WI, native could experience sound.
But things soon changed when Colleen received her first pair of hearing devices at the age of 4. From that moment on, Colleen was unstoppable. From academics to community service, Colleen has never missed a step. Today, as she raises three children who also have hearing loss, Colleen continues to exemplify determination as she tackles any obstacle that stands in her way.
Colleen is just one of the many individuals in our society who overcame hearing loss to live a well-rounded and successful life. In a society that wrongly equates hearing loss with weakness, a revolutionary foundation is primed to shatter stereotypes and empower the millions of people with untreated hearing loss to take action.
The HearStrong Foundation will radically challenge the general perception of hearing loss in our society today by celebrating individuals worldwide who have not only faced hearing loss but conquered it with a determined spirit, a focused mind, and an unwavering heart. Known as HearStrong Champions, these men, women, and children are the cornerstone of the foundation, which is funded through the generosity of EarQ providers. People will nominate friends, coworkers, and family members who have refused to let hearing loss deter them from their goals to be named an official HearStrong Champion.
Once selected by the foundation, each champion is awarded a gold medal and certificate. Many will receive a ceremony at their local provider’s office that will possibly be attended by local dignitaries and celebrities to help signify the event and give champions a powerful vehicle to share their story. By publicizing champions in local and national press, the foundation can reach the 80 percent of people with hearing loss who have yet to seek assistance and motivate them to take control of their hearing health.
“People need to know about the businesswoman who wears invisible hearing aids so she can discreetly hear her clients better, or the nine Olympic athletes who competed in the 2012 London games while wearing their athletically designed hearing devices, or the 4-year-old who loves to show off her pink hearing aids,” said Ed Keller, president of The HearStrong Foundation. “HearStrong will break down stereotypes and show the humanity of hearing better.”
The foundation will also facilitate hearing device donations to those who need proper hearing devices but cannot afford to buy them on their own.
Roughly 36 million Americans have hearing loss, and that number is on the rise. Recent studies have shown that one in five teenagers has hearing loss, as well as 60 percent of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. However, due to lack of education and negative connotations, many people choose to suffer in silence. The HearStrong Foundation will change that view once and for all.