SRHS Freshman Seeks Used Hearing Aids for Gift of Sound

Apr 10, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy HEAR’S A NEED: Julia Carrano replaces a hearing aid donation box at the Bay Avenue Community Center in Stafford Township. The Southern Regional freshman collects hearing aids as part of the New Jersey Hearing Aid Project.

As a dancer, Julia Carrano understands communicating with an audience from a performing arts perspective. In fact, she equates dancing with sign language.

“Dance is just like sign language,” said the Southern Regional High School freshman who is vice president of the school’s ASL Club. “Dancing is speaking with your body; not just your hands, but the rest of you as well.”

And while she may have a path toward professional dancing someday, Carrano has a bigger passion for helping others through audiology. To that end, she has begun exploring ways to immerse herself within the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Interestingly, a simple Google search revealed a program associated with Montclair State University and she immediately desired to get involved.

The program is the New Jersey Hearing Aid Project, which accepts hearing aid donations, refurbishes the devices and distributes them to low-income seniors, free of charge, throughout the state.

“An estimated 850,000 people in the state have some sort of hearing loss,” she said. “A lot of those people can’t afford them, because a set of hearing aids costs between $3,000 and $7,000. So they don’t get them, and that’s sad. It’s really devastating that some people can’t hear music or laughter. It’s really isolating.

“So I wanted to give back to those who are in need of hearing.”

Carrano’s way of giving back, in association with New Jersey Hearing Aid Project, was to start placing collection boxes in locations throughout Stafford Township and Long Beach Island. Since December, she’s developed and placed six boxes – at the Bay Avenue Community Center, Manahawkin Elks Club and St. Francis Community Center in Brant Beach, among others – but there’s a bigger issue than finding spots where those who can donate their used hearing aid can drop them off.

“Most people just don’t know about the program and that they can help out,” she said. “A lot of people throw away their used hearing aids or put them in a drawer. They don’t realize they can be refurbished and that somebody in need can use them.”

During the past few months, Carrano has collected from her boxes six sets of hearing aids and delivered them to Montclair State University for its hearing aid bank. Montclair started its program in 2014, overseen by the New Jersey Department of Human Services Division of Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Surprisingly, only in Bergen County are donation boxes circulated and routinely monitored, set in place by county officials.

“It was shocking to know that nobody else was doing this,” she said. “I’m the only one doing it here, but I thought there would be others already doing this somewhere else. But there’s not. It’s a small program, right now.”

And that’s the kicker. Carrano wants to grow this effort, but she obviously can’t do it alone – or even with the help of her mother, Nancy, who drives Julia around to place boxes and collect from them.

“I don’t really have any set goals for this,” she said. “I just want to get as many sets of hearing aids as possible, so we can send them in. What we really need is for people to spread the word and get involved – I’d love to have a team of people throughout the state who can help in finding places to put the boxes and check them for donations.”

However, without donations of hearing aids, the success of the program will become minimal at best.

“That’s definitely part of the message – don’t throw out your hearing aids or put them in a drawer,” she said. “Without hearing aid donations, we can’t get them refurbished and given to those who can’t hear.”

So, if you are an individual not using your old hearing aids, bring them to one of the local collection boxes listed on hearts4hearing.org, where those interested also can contact Carrano for more information.

Also on the website, income-limited individuals can access the link to apply for hearing aids through the New Jersey Division of Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Just click on the “links” tab. As for those who may want to get involved with Carrano’s efforts to reach more people and placing more donation boxes, contact her via email at njhearingaidproject@gmail.com or by phone at 609-994-0070.

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

In various locations throughout Stafford and Long Beach Island, you may see a collection box like this one, which is used to gather used hearing aids for refurbishing and distribution to low income seniors through the New Jersey Hearing Aid Project. (Photo by: David Biggy)
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