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The gift of sound
Local woman receives free hearing aid through non-profit foundation
W 122816 MIRACLE EAR 01
Daughter Pamela Wilkinson, far right, great-grandson Zac Royster, 7, and granddaughter Tanieka Royster celebrate as Christine Thomas, 81, left, gets fitted with a hearing aid by Miracle-Ear Statesboro board-certified Hearing Instrument Specialist Marie Conley. Thomas is the first patient to benefit from a new program to provide hearing aids to people who cannot afford them. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

It was a Christmas miracle for sure.

 Eighty-one-year-old Christine Thomas, though spry and independent in every other way, had suffered a loss of hearing for the last several years. She couldn’t enjoy a television show and couldn’t listen to music. Thomas struggled to understand restaurant servers on the rare times she attempted to dine out. In fact, she seldom left home because her hearing loss made errands and other activities difficult.

“The most frustrating part is having conversations with family,” Thomas said with a hint of sadness in her voice. Fortunately, Thomas’s only child, Pamela Wilkinson, lives in Statesboro and checks on her mom daily.

Her only ‘grands’ – granddaughter Tanieka Royster and great-grandson, Zac, live three hours away in Alabama and were visiting for the Christmas holidays. “When I call Granny and try to talk to her,” Takieka said, “she has a hard time hearing me. I have to talk really loud. And when my mom had to repeat herself, my Granny would feel like she was being yelled at.”

Thomas’s hearing loss greatly impacted her quality of life, and her family worried about her often.

“She’s very independent. She wants to live in her own home,” said Wilkinson.

With the season of miracles at hand, Christine Thomas received one of her own. Two weeks ago, Thomas got a letter in the mail stating that she’d been approved for a hearing aid at no cost to her from the Miracle-Ear Foundation.

Miracle-Ear Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports underserved adults and children with their hearing healthcare needs. The Foundation, working with Miracle-Ear stores across the country like the office in Statesboro, has donated more than 7,000 hearing aids to nearly 5,000 individuals nationwide.

According to the Miracle-Ear Foundation website, one in ten will experience some hearing loss and for many, the cost of hearing instruments is prohibitive. Miracle-Ear’s Marie Conley, Board Certified-Hearing Instrument Specialist, stated that Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids. “It’s considered cosmetic,” Conley said.

The local Miracle-Ear franchise in Statesboro, serving south-Georgia and parts of South Carolina, can credit the event as its own miracle, too. Though the office has provided hearing care locally for twenty years, this is the first time one of their applications for the ‘Gift of Sound’ hearing aid donations has been approved.

Elated about her grandmother’s opportunity, Taneika exclaimed, “Granny, you’re gonna be famous.” Thomas responded with a shy smile, but her eyes lit up with the thought. The whole family was on hand for the hearing aid fitting this week.

“I hope it will help me hear better,” said Thomas in anticipation. “I get so frustrated when I can’t hear.”

 Thomas sat quietly as Conley patiently taught Thomas and family members how to insert and use the hearing aids.

“I could hardly wait for the 28th to come,” said daughter Wilkinson as she watched. “I kept thinking, she’s getting those hearing aids.” Wilkinson helped complete the application for her mother’s hearing aids.

“I’m glad I didn’t go home yet,” said Taneika as she too watched with elation.

Their excitement was palpable as Conley fitted, Thomas sat motionless, and the family squirmed with glee. Intended for her mother’s ears, Wilkinson said to Taneika, “We’re not going to be able to talk about her now.”

“Yeah, we’re gonna get pinched,” Taneika joked in reply.

Another shy smile from Thomas.

“Granny, can you hear me?” Taneika asked.

“Yeah,” Thomas responded, with a huge smile this time.

“Go, Granny!” Taneika exploded, while Zac gave a whooping cry. Zac gave his mom a huge hug when Thomas successfully placed the hearing aid on her own.

                Thomas’s family hopes she’ll feel more comfortable now, knowing that she can hear better, and will be able to get out more. The gift of sound – Thomas’s best Christmas present this year. It was indeed a Christmas miracle for the whole family.   


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