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February 07, 1986 - Image 23

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-02-07

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Friday,. February 7, 1986 23

Hear, Oh Israel!

Detroiters have mobilized
an American network to provide
donated hearing aids
to needy Israelis.


Special to The Jewish News

How would it feel to know that
for $300 one could regain one's sense
of hearing, but lacked the funds to
do so?
Those were the thoughts which
troubled Al and Phyllis Newman on
their journey home from Israel in
August 1984.
After spending an enjoyable
visit in London with their daughter
Sharon, who directs Charing Cross
Hospital's Audiology Department,
the Newmans had traveled to
Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital to
view firsthand some of the work
made possible by an endowment in
pediatric audiology Al had estab-
lished the year before.
Phyllis, a past president of the
Greater . Detroit Chapter of Hadas-
sah, had gotten her husband in-
terested in the work of the Hadassah
Medical Organization over the years.
He had himself joined Hadassah and
had taken a particular interest in is-
sues pertinent to the hearing im
The couple's meeting with the
Hadassah Speech and Hearing Cen-
ter director, Dr. Haya Levi, was fas-
cinating but sobering. They learned,
of promising strides made in treat;
ing hearing-impaired infants and
children. They also discovered that
the $300 average cost of a hearing
aid and its accompanying followup
services were an impossible financial
burden for most of Israel's elderly
and much of the adult hearing-
impaired community. While the el-
derly still received free medical serv-
ices, explained Dr. Levi, economic
circumstances had forced Israel's
Ministry of Health and Welfare to
discontinue financial assistance for
the purchase of hearing aids.
Many elderly citizens survived

on a $120 monthly check from the
national Insurance Fund. The result:
people with moderate to profound
hearing loss had to forego buying
aids and were often suffering social
or professional isolation as well as a
great loss of self-esteem.
Back in Detroit, Al Newman
pondered a national tragedy he be-
lieved could, and should, be amelior-
ated. He realized there were
likeminded individuals he could con-
Newman had first met Chuck
Wolfe, executive director of Detroit's
Jewish Home for Aged, when New-
man's father was a resident at Bor-
man Hall. Dr. Paul Feinberg was a
longtime golfing friend. Both
men had considerable professional
exposure to the problems of the
hearing impaired. Feinberg was an
optometrist for 35 years and a hear-
ing •aid specialist for the past 25.
Wolfe knew that at least 35-40 per-
cent of the residents in Borman
Hall, Prentis Manor and Fleishman
Residence had suffered some hearing
loss, and he estimated that that
number could well be representative
of the elderly population at large.
"We also knew," informs Wolfe
today, "that no one in the United
States need go without a hearing
aid. Medicaid, and, to a lesser de-
gree, Medicare, make it possible for
even the most economically disad-
vantaged to obtain a hearing aid if
they need one."
"Can you imagine," he queried,
"having to slice priorities to exclude
people's hearing?"
The threesome decided to help
Israel's hearing impaired in what-
ever way they could. FOnberg con-
tacted numerous colleagues and
manufacturers of hearing aids to de-



Dr. Paul Feinberg, Charles Wolfe and Al Newman examine the latest batch of used
hearing aids.

termine if there were new or used
aids which could be reconditioned
and donated to Israel. Wolfe wrote a
letter which was mimeographed and
mailed to colleagues in over 100
Jewish homes for aged across the
United States and Canada.
After a New York manufacturer
generously donated some new aids,
Newman, Feinberg and Wolfe were
astounded to receive, not the possi-
ble five or six predicted, but hun-
dreds of used hearing aids from the
homes for aged in the year' that fol-
"From one letter," Wolfe mar-
vels, "we received a deluge of re-
sponses that exceeded my wildest
expectations. The very grassrooted-
ness of this program — that the re-
cycling of an otherwide useless
product could be transformed into a
lifesaver — has been immensely
gratifying," he says.
"No one is getting any huge tax
benefits here," Wolfe, Feinberg and
Newman reiterate. "When ' one
organization donates a large number
of aids, they do receive a letter on
Hadassah stationery thanking them
for their gift, but that's the only ac-
knowledgement. None of the Israeli
residents know more than that their
aid came from the United States,"
says Newman.
Each said that is deemed reusa-

ble is sent to Hadassah Hospital to
the attention of Dr. Levi, after un-
dergoing a very scientific evaluation.
"There are numerous kinds of
hearing loss," Feinberg emphasizes.
"And there are hearing aids de-
signed to meet very finite losses.
When an aid is received — either
from a resident home or through the
good will of manufacturer or repair
company — the aid is calibrated, or
adjusted, to establish exactly what
hearing loss it will help. Each unit,"
he says, "has its own capacity for
frequency — the high and low tones
— as well as a capacity for
amplitude, or volume."
After the aid's ability is iden-
tified, a chart listing its suitability
is attached. Feinberg is responsible
for all communication between re-
pair companies and the final assem-
bly and packaging. Newman ensures
that the packages are transported to
Hadassah's Speech and Hearing
"With Dr. Levi's help we man-
aged to arrange that the parcels pass
through Customs free of charge,"
Newman reports.
Dr. Levi is responsible for con-
ducting audiometric examinations in
Israel and matching aids to indi-
viduals who need them. To date,
hundreds of adults have been prop-

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