For at least 100 local seniors, today was a truly watershed day in their lives, as they were given back the gift of hearing by St. Joseph Audiologist Dr. Gyl Kasewurm and her amazing team thanks to a partnership crafted last month with The Frederick S. Upton Foundation and the Starkey Hearing Foundation. That partnership, launched a month ago pledged to help 100 elderly individuals to regain critical hearing skills through the gift of hearing aids that they simply would never have been able to afford otherwise.
When we first announced the plan the first week of May through the Berrien Community Foundation who took applications for the opportunity, there was a huge groundswell and an overwhelming interest in being among those who would gain the chance to show up at Dr. Kasewurm's Professional Hearing Services today to be fitted for their new hearing aid devices.
Justine Hammer, a Doctor of Audiology herself, was on hand from the Minneapolis corporate offices of the Starkey Hearing Foundation, helping to fit some of the seniors being given the gift. She was working with Frank Gaul from St. Joseph when I chatted with her. She says, "It’s a very exciting day, in fact, I’m honored to come and work here today with Dr. Gyl and her great team. I found out about it a couple of weeks ago and have been working with them to get this happening." She spoke with great admiration of Dr. Gyl, telling me, "She has an amazing reputation. She’s quite the powerhouse, a true dynamo, so it’s nice to have people like her out there trying to help the community."
For her part, Dr. Gyl was a whirlwind today talking with a continual parade of the new clients. She paused briefly to explain the program today, saying, "We have partnered with The Upton Foundation and the Starkey Hearing Foundation to fit 100 people from Michigan’s Great Southwest with free hearing aids, as a result of the generosity of those two foundations. So, we are helping them hear better, which is one of the missions of the Starkey Hearing Foundation, -- “So the World May Hear,” and they go around the world and give away hearing aids to people. and now they’re helping us to support the residents in our community."
Watching the proverbial turnstile churn through the morning, I caught up with Dr. Gyl just ahead of the lunch hour, and she admitted, "It has been a bit overwhelming, to be sure, and we’ve always worked to give people help that can’t afford it, but this way we’re doing so much in just one day, so it’s a pretty special day here at Professional Hearing Services."
The process was swift, but also meaningful, and Gyl noted, "It will take all day, and the staff has been so great, giving up a lot of their own time. We had to give up at least one Saturday to do testing and now we’ll have to do a couple of more Saturdays to be able to help these people adjust to hearing better, so it’s a big time commitment, but we are more than happy to do it, because it improves the quality of life for those who have hearing loss."
New to the team in recent days is Dr. Hannah Reeg. She was right in the thick of things with the full staff on hand. She recently graduated from the University of Cincinnati, and says, "Then I was hired by Dr. Kasewurm as her new audiologist. I’m from Fort Wayne, lndiana originally, so moving here has been close to home, and it’s kind of nice not to be too far of a drive from home." Turning her attention to the tasks at hand, Dr. Reeg says, "Here today, we are fitting lots and lots of people and it is so gratifying and rewarding being able to help people hear better, I can connect with that personally, because I’ve been wearing hearing aids for ten years myself, and I know what it’s like to go without, so this is really special."
It was indeed a special day as eligible low-income senior citizens in Berrien County received new hearing aids free of charge from a Frederick S. Upton Foundation grant to the Starkey Hearing Foundation Hear Now Mission. Dr. Kasewurm’s Professional Hearing Services partnered to fit, test, and care for hearing aids for those senior citizens who met the income criteria and applied through the Berrrien Community Foundation.