Reporting Mike Binkley
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (WCCO) — As many as 1 in 10 Americans suffer from some type of hearing loss, and often the problem goes untreated because screenings and hearing aids are too expensive or not easily available.
While the Starkey Foundation travels the world to help others, they often don’t have to look far from their Eden Prairie offices, as players like Adrian Peterson and Greg Jennings were the big attraction for the kids on Tuesday.
Quarterback Josh Freeman said the past involvement from his teammates got him excited to get started.
“You hear the guys talk about how much they’re going out changing lives,” he said. “There’s so many stories, that look on their face when they can hear for the first time. It’s priceless.”
He said the Vikings partnership with Starkey speaks for itself about the quality of players and the organization. It’s not just about making money, it’s about making a difference in the community.
Two of the kids who got new hearing aids on Tuesday were brothers Elijah and Aaron Strom.
“I wear them every day,” 6-year-old Aaron said. “I wear them at school, at home.”
Elijah feels the same way.
“They help me do better work and make me understand words,” he said..
While the boys know they should wear them, they complain they’re itchy and often take them out.
Their parents also have hearing loss. Two years ago, the entire family got fitted for new hearing aids, the boys’ father, David, said that trip to Minnesota changed their lives.
“It’s allowed me to hear so many sounds I haven’t heard for so many years,” David said. “For my wife, it’s been wonderful. She can hear environmental sounds.”
The new Starkey hearing aids have had immediate impact on the boys’ lives, too.
“With hearing aids, they socialize a lot more,” David said. “They’re more outgoing, they socialize a lot more. They’re engaged in school. Academically, they’re thriving.”
The Starkey Foundation fit 131,000 people for free hearing aids last year. It has pledged to donate $1 million more before this decade ends.