COLERAIN TOWNSHIP, Ohio – T. J. Monroe remembers speaking with President Bill Clinton 21 years ago.
It was Christmas time - Dec. 11, 1996. That would have been a memorable occasion for anyone. But for Monroe, it was a frustrating one.
“I couldn’t hear what the President talk to me,” he said. “My left ear ... When he was talking to me, I asked him to turn up his volume.”
Monroe has endured many of those frustrating moments through the years – missing conversations with family and friends, everyday sounds other people take for granted.
But not this Christmas. Not anymore.
Monroe recently came to a Miracle Ear store in Colerain Township for a special gift this Christmas season – his hearing.
“I can hear out of this ear, but I’m losing it a little bit. I can’t hear anything out of this one without a hearing aid,” he said.
Forty years ago, Monroe lost most of his hearing after falling out of a truck. But as soon as he walked into the store, he was considering life’s possibilities he would not have considered before.
He mentioned scuba diving. And writing a book.
“I’m very excitement to be here,” he said. “A lot of times, people don’t see what people can do.”
Monroe was about to get his special hearing aids – free – from the Miracle Ear Foundation.
Dan Krieger, a hearing instrument specialist, was pleased to do the honors.
“Anytime you can restore someone to their own life, anytime you can make them be a part of what’s going on around them, it’s so cool to see,” Krieger said.
It was time for Monroe to test his new hearing aids. There was a moment of silence, then ...
"I can hear both," Monroe said.
“Yeah? You can hear out of both sides?" asked Krieger. "Isn’t that cool?”
“Yes!” Monroe answered.
Monroe won’t be able to wear his new hearing aids when he goes scuba diving, but he will be able to start a new adventure.
He was already looking forward to “hearing my sister and my family talking,” he said.
And writing a book.
“I want to write a book. An opportunity to write a book, so I can hear people - what they say,” Monroe said.
Listening to others. That’s what he was looking forward to most.
“Helen Keller actually said you experience the world through your eyes, but relationships are through your ears,” said Krieger.
“It’s so cool to be able to be a part of bringing someone back into what’s going on around them.”
Since 1990, the Miracle Ear Foundation has given free hearing aids – 13,000 of them - to 7,500 people.
“The real spirit of Christmas is giving,” Krieger said. “Not just presents, but giving of time, attention.
"Being able to give literally the gift of sound, that means the world.”