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That old hearing aid can still do so much good
Bill Austin wanted to study medicine, but a part-time job he took when he was 19 — back in 1961 — changed the direction of his life.
Now, at the age of 71, the owner of Starkey Laboratories — one of the world’s leading developer of hearing aids — travels the world through his foundation, helping people with hearing loss.
Jan Alexandre, who owns Kamloops Hearing Aid Centre with husband Blaine, went on one of those foundation trips recently and the experience left the couple determined to do what they can to help further Austin’s work.
She went to Honduras with the foundation — dealers who take part pay their own way — and was part of a team that fit more than 4,000 hearing aids for children and adults.
Some of the hearing aids are donations that have been refurbished, while others are bought by the foundation, Alexandre said.
The trip had its own memorable moments, all of them involving the simple experience of a person who has lived with hearing loss suddenly being able to hear again.
Alexandre said it’s been Austin’s mission to do whatever he can to help people hear, a goal that has seen his foundation travel to virtually every country in the world.
In August, for example, the foundation, accompanied by former U.S. president Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea, distributed aids to people throughout Rwanda.
The foundation reports that, in the past year, it has fit more than 165,000 hearing aids.
Alexandre said her company plans to donate a portion of sales from each device it sells for the next year and is also starting a campaign to collect old hearing aids.
Even ones that no longer work will be accepted, she said, because they can be scavenged for parts to put together with other non-working devices to create an aid that works.
People who want to drop off any old hearing devices they have can do so at the Kamloops Hearing Aid Centre, at 414 Arrowstone Dr., behind Sahali Mall.
The centre is open Mondays to Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.