Gift That Keeps On Giving

Donation of modern hearing aids changes life of teacher in need.

When a massive trough of cold air came down from Canada and slammed into Hurricane Grace just ahead of Halloween in the fall of 1991, Bernie Martin ran out of his Ormond-by-the-Sea home, grabbed his surfboard and headed into the ocean for the ride of his life.

Dr. Jickell, right, shows Bernie how the settings on his new hearing aids can be controlled through his phone.

Dr. Jickell, right, shows Bernie how the settings on his new hearing aids can be controlled through his phone.

“I’ve surfed all over the US and several countries, but the largest waves I’ve ever ridden were the 15-foot waves here on the east coast of Florida in 1991 after the “Perfect Storm” hit up in the Northeast,” Bernie says. “I’ll never forget that one.”

Bernie, 58, has lots of surfing memories, many from his days as a competitive surfer with the Eastern Surfing Association. Alas, surfing has since taken a back seat to more meaningful, albeit equally rewarding, endeavors.

A one-time scientific researcher, Bernie now teaches math and science to middle and high school students at Chase Academy, a private school for children with autism spectrum disorder in South Daytona. He does so despite a disability of his own.

“I have a congenital hearing loss that is quite profound,” Bernie explains. “It has greatly affected my ability to partake in many activities most people take for granted. Things such as talking on the phone or interacting socially are quite challenging for me.”

Challenging Times 

Bernie has been wearing hearing aids since he was a preschooler, but the technology in the devices he had worn for many years was so antiquated that it did little to enhance his ability to hear high-frequency sounds or understand speech.

His speech recognition was so poor, in fact, that he had to talk to people face to face and read their lips to comprehend them. That proved especially difficult at school, where Bernie had to figure out a way to work around the problem.

“At the school where I teach, the classes are very small, about eight to 10 students per class,” Bernie reports. “That helps. The biggest factor, though, is that my students and I have an understanding of how to communicate most effectively with one another.

“As you can imagine, when masks were required as part of the COVID-19 pandemic precautions, I could no longer rely on lip reading to assist me, so those were very challenging times.”

That’s not the only challenge Bernie’s hearing loss has presented. For years, he could hear a lawnmower running but couldn’t hear a doorbell ring. Nor could he hear someone talking behind him or off to the side.

That all changed in January, when Bernie’s ear care provider, Dana Jickell, AuD, of Professional Hearing Solutions, chose him as the recipient of a new set of hearing aids donated by hearing aid manufacturer ReSound.

Since 2014, ReSound has donated more than 6,500 hearing aids through its Gift of Hearing campaign, a philanthropic endeavor designed to help people with hearing loss who are unable to access or afford quality hearing aids.

Including Dr. Jickell, more than 200 hearing care professionals are participating in the nationwide campaign in 2022. Their collective goal is to give away $1 million worth of hearing devices before the end of March to worthy patients such as Bernie.

That goal is part of a larger goal in which ReSound hopes to help more than 10 million people “hear more, do more and be more” through the gift of its most technologically advanced hearing devices by the year 2025.

Dr. Jickell, who joined the Gift of Hearing program this year, says that choosing Bernie as a recipient of the advanced hearing aids was a no-brainer.

“For starters, he’s an educator,” Dr. Jickell reasons. “And as such he really needs to be able to hear and understand his students. What was standing in the way of that was the fact that he was wearing 10-year-old hearing aids.

“Not only were his hearing aids old, but he was wearing one hearing aid brand in one ear and another in the other ear. And this was because he was never able to afford to buy two hearing aids from the same provider at one time.

“He’s been doing the best he can with what he’s had for a very long time now, and I thought that if we could upgrade his hearing devices and give him the best technology has to offer right now, it would be very beneficial to him.”

State-of-the-Art Devices 

Bernie’s new devices, the ReSound ENZO Q, are the most technologically advanced hearing aids available for people with severe-to-profound hearing loss. They provide clear and comfortable sound as well as options for connectivity.

In addition to improving the wearer’s ability to clearly hear speech and high-frequency sounds such as bells, whistles and birds chirping, the devices include Bluetooth capability and 360-degree hearing sensors.

The former allows the wearer to stream sounds from a phone, television or computer directly through the hearing aids, while the latter allows the wearer to hear sounds and understand speech even from behind their head.

The hearing aids Bernie wore previously didn’t allow for those conveniences, so when he was fit with his new hearing aids, he was immediately thrust into a world of sound he had never experienced.

“He noticed the difference right away and was absolutely thrilled,” says Dr. Jickell, who immediately put Bernie’s new hearing aids to the test by talking to him while standing about 10 feet behind him.

“When I did that, he could hear everything I said clearly, and that was something he had never been able to do before,” says Dr. Jickell, who Bernie extols for her thoughtfulness, generosity and care. 

“When Dr. Jickell told me she had chosen me to get these new hearing aids, I was overjoyed,” Bernie enthuses. “And then when I got them, I was immediately amazed at the difference between these hearing devices and what I had been wearing.

“The sound quality is great, the setting for voice clarity is really good and the noise suppression is the best I’ve ever encountered. The fact I can just use my phone to change to a different setting is something I always wanted and greatly appreciate.

“I can’t thank Dr. Jickell enough for what she’s done for me. She’s exceptional both personally and professionally, and I’ll always be grateful that she chose me to get these new hearing aids. They’ve changed my life.”

© FHCN article by Roy Cummings. Photos by Jordan Pysz. Hearing aid graphic courtesy of ReSound. mkb
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    • Professional Hearing Solutions

      At Professional Hearing Solutions, they are dedicated to improving the quality of life for their patients by helping them manage their hearing loss. Hearing loss can happen to anyone of any age. When left untreated, hearing loss, can ne... Read More

    • Dana Jickell, AuD

      Dana Jickell, AuD, has provided hearing health care for more than 25 years. She earned her bachelor’s degree and doctoral degree from the University of Florida and obtained her master’s degree from the University of Central Florida.... Read More

    • Raegan Jickell, C-AA

      Raegan Jickell, C-AA, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida in 2014. She is working toward her hearing instrument specialist license.... Read More