ABOVE: Mollie McDowell and hearing instrument specialist Nick Vickers.
Mollie McDowell received a gift last week that was music to her ears.
McDowell, 86, was fitted for a new pair of $6,000 hearing aids last week, courtesy of the Beltone Hearing Care Foundation.
The longtime Chester resident was thrilled. “I’m anxious to get home and listen to the birds,” she said.
McDowell, an Augusta, Ga., native who moved to Chester in 1972 with her husband, Beverly, has overcome bouts of breast cancer following surgeries in 2008 and 2015. The second one was followed by radiation and chemotherapy.
Her hearing aids had worn over 10 years of use, and her hearing had gotten worse, said Nick Vickers, a hearing instrument specialist at Beltone Hearing Aid Center’s office at 320-B Charles Dimmock Parkway in Colonial Heights.
Most insurances do not cover hearing aids, Vickers said. When he found out McDowell needed help, he encouraged her to write a letter to the foundation and apply for an award.
“She’s an incredible person,” he said of his client, who has 50-percent hearing loss.
Vickers notes that hearing changes as a person gets older, beginning at around age 55 to 60, noting that damage done to the cochlea when a person is younger does not show up until later in life.
Things such as age, diabetes, radiation, chemotherapy, and prescription drugs can cause damage to the cochlea, which has some 50,000 tiny hairs that can die and are not replaced. In addition, Vickers cautions that untreated or poorly treated hearing loss can lead to dementia, citing a study from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine and the National Institute on Aging.
A former teacher who has four children and three grandchildren, McDowell is thankful for the support that she received from many over the past 10 years, including the Rev. Lloyd Braswell and the congregation at Chester Baptist Church. She notes that they had a prayer meeting for her in December 2014 that she will never forget.
“We are happy to have played an important role in changing her life for the better,” Beltone Carolina/Virginia’s chief executive officer Michael Andreozzi said.