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Better Hearing Makes a World of Difference

In just the last couple of months, Alva Stinson, a 48-year-old athlete from Indiana, has become more confident and social, has improved his performance at work, and is enjoying life much more than he ever did before.

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Alva Stinson tries his new free hearing aid for the first time. 

Being Introduced to A Whole New World

What changed? In September, Alva Stinson received free hearing aids from Special Olympics and the Hear the World Foundation.

“I’m amazed,” said Di Robertson, Alva’s direct service professional who has been working with him since last year. “The change in him is phenomenal. He’s walking different. He’s talking different. He used to be in his own little world. Now, he can better understand what is going on in his environment.”


An Amazing Impact

Alva has been participating in Special Olympics sports since 2005. He enjoys track and field and bowling. For years, Alva has had moderate hearing loss, according to Carolyn Garner, M.A., clinical associate professor at the Indiana University Health Clinic, and a Healthy Hearing clinical director since 2004. As a provider for residents who receive state assistance, Carolyn had seen Alva before and had tried to convince him to try hearing aids, but it was after his exam at the Indiana Special Olympics Summer Games in Terre Haute this year that he agreed.

Speaking with Di, the stories of the impact on Alva’s life keep coming. At work, he is faster and better understands what his supervisor needs. He is able to get around better because he can hear the directions from bus drivers. He can better himself because he can go to his local library and the librarians can understand what he needs and can help him find it. 

Giving the Gift of Sound

Alva’s story is part of a much larger push by Special Olympics Healthy Athletes to reinvent its Healthy Hearing program and provide follow-up care and hearing aids to athletes. Dubbed Healthy Hearing 2.0, the push is fueled by hundreds of free hearing aids and access to providers associated with Special Olympics partner the Hear the World Foundation, both in the U.S. and internationally. Addressing hearing loss has challenges that make effective follow-up care challenging. Hearing aids need to be fitted, adjusted and serviced, meaning multiple visits to a professional. For athletes like Alva, though, the effort is well rewarded.

“He has such a strong support group around him,” Carolyn said. “From the very start, his coach and his direct service professional were very supportive and were right on top of things – helping him get to his appointments and encouraging him. That makes a big difference.” 

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“He was always quiet and kept his thoughts to himself. Now he engages in conversations and expresses his feelings. The hearing aids have changed his world.”


Denise Brown, Alva Stinson’s Special Olympics Coordinator 

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