In July 2011
Chris Waring of Jesup Iowa
assumed responsibility as
Coordinator of the Iowa Lions Hearing Aid Bank.

[Click here for more information]

Rhoda Bender, after 21 years, has retired as the Coordinator.

From a historical perspective there are
some interesting details in the following article:

Hearing Aid Bank Collects Used Hearing Aids

Published in THE IOWA LION, June,1999

By Beverly Collins, Marshalltown Noon Lions Club

In April I followed Rhoda Bender to the Conference of Audiologists in Des Moines. Rhoda maintains the Iowa Lions Hearing Aid Bank of about 500 hearing aids, complete with detailed specifications on each hearing device. Today Rhoda is greeting audiologists and hearing aid dispensers from around the state who have bags of used hearing aids for Rhoda to take home, catalog and make ready for reuse, or to salvage for parts.

The in-the-ear hearing aids cannot be reused because such aids are custom molded to each patient's ear, but the working parts can be reclaimed, and Rhoda gets credit for these to apply toward repair of hearing aids. Only the over-the ear aids are catalogued into the Hearing Aid Bank.

When a Lions club approves an Iowan for a hearing aid, Rhoda gets a call from the audiologist or dispenser and matches the needs of the patient with one of the hearing aids from the bank. The club funds some or all of the cost to fit the hearing aid. The aid is free of charge to the patient. Ken Lowder, President of the Iowa Association of Hearing Health Professionals and a private practice audiologist in Coralville, says that many social workers don't know about the Iowa Lions Hearing Aid Bank. He describes it as still one of the best kept secrets.

The conference trade show was a great opportunity for a layperson like me to learn more about hearing aids. The newest technology is digital hearing aids. Digital aids are tuned and set by computer and can be retuned as hearing loss progresses, giving them a usable life of about 10 years. Bill Kothman, representative for Widex, explained that with the digital aids the least important frequencies (which tend to be noise) can be de-emphasized, and the relevant hearing frequencies emphasized. Retuning by computer must be done to achieve any adjustments, such as volume. The digital aids retail about $2200 or more per ear, obviously more costly than traditional hearing aids, but Kothman says they provide more performance and flexibility over time. Digital hearing is in its infancy and holds much promise as an emerging technology.

I asked several audiologists and trade show representatives to compare in-the-ear aids to over-the-ear aids. The over-the-ear aids, I learned, function better for severe hearing losses. (As my mother has severe hearing loss, I asked her why she chose an in-the-ear rather than over-the-ear. She told me she specifically asked for an in-the-ear as she thought that was the best for hearing loss!)

Each company's hearing aids have points of difference. I learned that audiologists have their own favorites among the hearing aid brand names, and might choose one hearing aid over another based on its technology better fitting a patient's needs. For example, Seth Maixner, an audiologist in Waterloo, noted that he liked Phonak's over-the-ear brand for severe hearing loss. So I in turn asked the dealers if some audiologists were better at fine tuning their brand of hearing aid and was told that was the case. In fact, the Phonak representative mentioned Maixner as an expert in fitting their technology. I concluded that the better an audiologist knows the hearing aids he is working with, the better he can meet the patient's needs. Tweaking the hearing aid is both a skill and an art.

Rhoda introduced me to Sandra Hobson, a Des Moines audiologist. Hobson asks all recipients of Lions hearing aids to send thank yous to Rhoda; she even gives them addressed envelopes to make the job easier. Hobson also is the Iowa coordinator for HIKE- Hearing Impaired Kids Endowment. This organization helps hearing impaired kids in need by providing captioned television, vibrating alarms, and hearing aids. Interested persons can learn more about this program from InfoTech (a service of the Iowa Program for Assistive Technology), by calling 319-356- 0550 or 1-800-331-3027.

The inclusion of hearing conservation as a Lions project dates back to 1981, but it wasn't until Mary Lowder, a staff member of the Otolaryngology Department at Iowa City, observed family members left with hearing aids of deceased relatives and suggested that a Hearing Aid Bank be created. Lowder maintained the Hearing Aid Bank until Rhoda took it over in 1990. Approximately 140 hearing aids are dispensed free of charge each year to qualifying Iowans.   [Lions year 2001-02 saw 160 hearing aids sent to needy hearing-impaired persons.  2300 were collected from donations.] 

Rhoda, thanks for helping Lions learn about what you do and for giving us the opportunity to better understand the Iowa Lions Hearing Aid Bank.