Grandmother gets free hearing aid after granddaughter writes letter
ORANGE >> A 91-year-old West Haven woman once again will be able to hear conversations — and even the creaking of floors and the sniffs of the family dog — thanks to a compelling letter written by her granddaughter to Beltone Hearing Care Foundation.
The letter to the Beltone charity about the woman’s hearing loss was so touching that she was outfitted recently at the Beltone Hearing Center, 518 Boston Post Road, with a free high-technology hearing aid that sells for close to $7,000.
“In anybody’s life, if you can’t hear, you don’t know what you’re missing. You’re missing the world,” Loretta D’Aniello said just before getting the device.
Of her granddaughter, Melissa D’Aniello’s effort, D’Aniello said, “I think it’s beautiful, fantastic, lovable. It’s unbelievable that a granddaughter would do such a beautiful thing.”
D’Aniello said both her ears are affected by hearing loss, but the left one especially. She also has the type of hearing loss that makes words sound distorted.
She said it’s difficult to understand what’s being said in social situations. “But I try not to show it.”
Melissa D’Aniello, 26, wrote that she began to notice her active grandmother was watching soap operas at a painfully high volume, and she’d have to shout to get her point across. Her grandmother also misunderstood explanations from people who didn’t realize she had a hearing loss.
They tried lower end, affordable hearing aids, which didn’t work and, at thousands of dollars, the cost of a high-end device was prohibitive, they said. Medicare and most insurance companies don’t cover hearing aids, Beltone officials said, although efforts are underway to change that.
“She deserves to hear,” Melissa D’Aniello said. “She’ll be able to communicate better and not feel like an outsider.”
Loretta D’Aniello, who enjoys West Haven’s senior center, said she has many peers faced with the same problem.
While pursuing a solution, Melissa D’Aniello heard about the foundation, wrote the letter and brought it to the Orange office. Loretta D’Aniello was among the lucky ones chosen annually nationwide.
Hearing care practitioner Nicole Starinovich began Tuesday by fitting the devices behind Loretta D’Aniello’s ears, then did a computerized measurement to tailor the devices to her hearing loss.
After a few minutes of tweaking, Starinovich asked: “Can you hear me?”
The response was a resounding, “I can hear perfect.”
She looked at granddaughter and the two burst into sobs of joy — with a few giggles mixed in — and Starinovich had to get the tissues out, as well.
“This really touched me because I had such a close relationship with my grandma,” Starinovich said.
Turning on the device and watching people light up when they realize they can hear again “never gets old,” she said.
“You’re helping someone get back their life,” she said. Often, people who have been isolated return to activities such as shopping, bingo, church and socializing, she said.
Starinovich told Loretta D’Aniello, “You’ll hear things you haven’t heard in a long time,” including creaking floors, the pitter- patter of dog paws and, Melissa guesses, the sniffing sounds their dog, Timber, makes.
The two live in separate units of the same house in West Haven.
In the compelling letter that got the foundation’s attention, Melissa D’Aniello wrote about how people often take normal hearing for granted, until it slowly diminishes from “someone you love.”
“You come to realize that it is more of a blessing than something we should take as normal,” she wrote.
Her grandmother, she wrote, is, “the ultimate form of the ‘mazing grandma,’ she has always had the best snacks, loves to give me her scratch ticket winnings, no matter how many times I refuse, and loves with a passion so deep you can see it radiating from her. In my personal opinion, she is the most amazing person, ever.”
Melissa D’Aniello, an only grandchild, said in the letter, of her grandmother, “She feels belittled because of the way we have to speak to her sometimes and it makes me sad to have had caused my grandmother any feeling of doubt of her amazing self-worth.”
She wraps up the letter by saying, “If you provide my amazing, beautiful loving grandma with this gift of hearing aids, her life will be changed forever.”
The foundation donates hearing aids to those who are in need but are unable to access them, the company said in a press release. Individuals and organizations are eligible for assistance by direct nominations to Beltone.