Ear Research Foundation Blog

Ear Research Foundation Helps Deaf Woman Hear Her Terminally Ill Husband Again


Ear Research Foundation Helps Deaf Woman Hear Her Terminally Ill Husband Again      BY BRITTANY MATTIE  

Original Post: https://www.srqmagazine.com/srq-daily/2020-12-23/15828_Ear-Research-Foundation-Helps-Deaf-Woman-Hear-Her-Terminally-Ill-Husband-Again 
Debra Bergeron is a wife and caretaker of her terminally ill husband, Ron Bergeron. She is also deaf. And Ron has been relentlessly sought help for her to hear his voice before he passes. Debra received a fundamental surgery in October 2020, followed by the activation of her cochlear implant -- a surgically implanted hearing device sometimes referred to as a bionic ear -- the following November. It is said to provide sound for people suffering from sensorineural hearing loss in both ears by bypassing the damaged hair cells in the cochlea and transmitting sound directly to the auditory nerve and on to the brain. Debra was already profoundly deaf in her right ear; her left ear went deaf while waiting nine months for new hearing aids. Debra cannot benefit from a hearing aid any longer because of the severity of her hearing loss and aids not being able to amplify adequately to give her speech understanding. She became a cochlear implant candidate. 

The cochlear implant costs about $30,000. With no health insurance of her own, and her husband on full disability, fear creeped in for the Sarasota couple. “My biggest fear was who would take care of my husband," she shares. "If something should happen to him, I would not be able to hear him."  Ron expressed fears in the wake of his diagnosis of a terminal disease as well, but more for his wife, than for himself. “I was very fearful of her not being able to function alone," he says. So, he called various institutions for help and was finally referred to Sarasota's Ear Research Foundation, founded by Dr. Herbert Silverstein. The 501C-3 provides medical education in an Otology Clinical Fellowship training program in a private setting all while expanding its programs to include an ear clinic for indigent patients.

The foundation’s team worked tirelessly to coordinate both party's wishes and ease both their fears the past few months. Dr. Jack Wazen and Dr. Sharon Rende, AuD agreed to donate their professional services. In a concerted effort to contribute due to the heartwarming local story, Sarasota Memorial Hospital generously offered a reduced cost. However, more funding was still needed. When the cost of the surgery, hospital and follow-up care are factored in, the expense is upwards of $100,000.  “It’s truly wonderful to witness how foundations from different states stepped up and made the gift of hearing possible for Mrs. Bergeron,” says Jodel Velarde, Ear Research Foundation Coordinator.

Still, no one entity had the remaining resources and extensive funds to foot the hefty aforementioned price tag of this particular surgery.  Fortunately, Eileen Jones, founder of the former Gift of Hearing Foundation in MA, shared an organization called Jacob’s Ride for Hearing of Annapolis, MD. “Jacob’s Ride worked directly with the hospital to provide resources to help cover the expenses of the surgery and then we worked with an anonymous third-party charity that provides the cochlear implant equipment," says Randy Landis, Executive Director of Jacob’s Ride for Hearing. "In this case, we were fortunate to have a private foundation donate the equipment."

To guide Debra into entering a world of sounds, the Ear Research Foundation will continue to provide post-operative care and give additional financial support through the Help Us Hear program. “I’ve been doing the cochlear implant cases for more than twenty years. 1998 was my first one and it is still just as exciting today as it was then” says Dr. Sharon Rende, Silverstein Institute’s Director of Audiology.

Debra, who turned 62 early October shares, “I was given the best birthday gift anyone could ask for. This will change our lives drastically. Everything that has been done for us has been a godsend.”

For more information or to donate for Debra’s continuing care or help other people like her, please see contact Jodel Velarde, Development Coordinator, 941-556-4219, jvelarde@EarRF.org.