The HearStrong Foundation, which is headquartered in Syracuse, N.Y., was established in 2013 with the goal to inspire people to pursue hearing loss solutions and to allow them to take control of their hearing health. The foundation's mission is to start a worldwide movement, showcasing individuals who have met undeniable success despite living with hearing loss, in order to challenge the perception of hearing loss and to banish the social stigma of using assistive listening devices to improve one's hearing. The foundation is funded through EarQ providers.
HearStrong champions are ordinary people with hearing loss who have gone to sometimes extraordinary measures to prevent their hearing loss from getting in the way of their dreams and goals. The HearStrong Foundation envisions its champions as the cornerstone of the foundation - they serve to inspire those with untreated hearing loss to seek treatment and better their lives. In fact, experts estimate that 80 percent of people living with hearing loss have not yet sought treatment, either because they don't realize their hearing is waning or they are too embarrassed to wear hearing aids or are misinformed about what hearing aids and other assistive listening devices can do for them.
President of HearStrong Foundation Ed Keller, said that it's not just important for people to learn about famous people with hearing loss but also those ordinary people who have overcome their hearing loss:
"People need to know about the businesswoman who wears invisible hearing aids so she can discreetly hear her clients better, or the nine Olympic athletes who competed in the 2012 London games while wearing their athletically designed hearing devices, or the 4-year-old who loves to show off her pink hearing aids," Keller said. "HearStrong will break down stereotypes and show the humanity of hearing better."
The champions include both children and adults who are nominated by community members and selected by the foundation. They are given a certificate and gold medal, and are often celebrated at a ceremony at their local hearing aid provider's office. The champions serve as role models for other people in the community with hearing loss and those who have had to conquer struggles similar to hearing loss to achieve their goals. Here are a few of the recently nominated HearStrong Champions:
- Cathy Kooser, a social worker from Dayton, Ohio, was initially very reluctant to address her hearing loss. While she purchased a few different pairs of hearing aids during her 20s and 30s, she didn't wear them for long. She eventually saw a counselor who helped her accept her hearing loss. She went back to school to get a Masters degree in social work and developed a program for others to use with those with hearing loss called "The Kooser Program: The Hidden Impact of Hearing Loss." She was named a HearStrong Champion for both overcoming her fear of addressing her hearing loss and going further in finding ways to help others with hearing loss.
- Joshue McGriff is a basketball player on the United States Deaflympics basketball team. He most recently played in the 2013 Deaflympics this summer in Bulgaria. McGriff has had hearing loss since he was a child and received hearing aids just before his second birthday. He said that it was difficult to wear hearing aids at first in school, but that it eventually didn't matter to anyone. He received cochlear implants when he was 14 and is now enrolled at Gallaudet University to study digital media and studio art. He was nominated as a HearStrong Champion because he does not define himself solely by his hearing loss: "There is a whole world out there and we have to find the courage to go after what we want and we cannot be stopped by a disability. When I wake up in the morning, I know that I have two choices: I can continue to dream or I can chase my dreams."