The Center has a 100-year history of adapting to client needs. Most recently we saw how the COVID-19 pandemic made many of our clients feel isolated and lonely. In normal Center style, we found an answer and started the Circle of Friends program as part of our Senior Connections program. Through Senior Connections, many receive a cost-free internet hotspot connection and a personal tablet to use for virtual conversations with their friends.
Some join a Circle of Friends group for weekly meetings hosted by a Center Social worker to discuss their hearing loss, make friends with others and learn more about making connections. Mr. Dickerson, who had lived with hearing loss for decades, has been an enthusiastic participant of the Circle of Friends Program. Mr. Dickerson’s story and his energetic, caring spirit remind us here at the Center of the power of positive thinking and the importance of never giving up.
Born and raised in St. Louis, Mr. Dickerson spent most of his time with his family: playing outside with his brothers, talking with his mother and sisters and trying out many new hobbies. Mr. Dickerson had normal hearing as a child, but at age 19 a gunshot near his ear marked the beginning of a gradual hearing loss. Despite his problems with hearing, Mr. Dickerson gained a love and passion for songwriting, singing and playing instruments. He spent many days learning how to play different instruments and even now receives instruments from his family and teaches himself how to play them.
Later in life, Mr. Dickerson was arrested and sent to prison. While in prison, he grieved several deaths of close family members, siblings, and children. But he did not allow these misfortunes affect his positive mindset. After being released from prison, Mr. Dickerson took control of his life, began attending church, and writing more music. He eventually learned he could receive hearing aids from the Center, which helped in all those activities.
Mr. Dickerson’s gradual loss of hearing is common and, like him, many people put off seeking help until it becomes severe. For some it is because they can’t afford traditional hearing aid stores, while others do not have audiology clinics in their neighborhoods. Fortunately, Mr. Dickerson learned about the Center and received free hearing aids and free transportation. He says that using his hearing aids not only improved his ability to hear music but also has increased his social activities with friends. He even says that when singing, his hearing aids work like a personal sounds system; he can “turn them up or down to hear how he sounds to others.”
Mr. Dickerson’s infectious personality makes him someone you want to know. Whether you hear him playing one of his original songs, see him listening to one of his favorite artists, like Aretha Franklin or Jazmine Sullivan, or chat with him in Circle of Friends, Mr. Dickerson always brings a smile and laughter. His constant positivity and caring heart inspire those of us at the Center us never give up and focus on the good things in life.
When asked what one thing you would tell others, Mr. Dickerson replied, “you haven’t failed until you stopped trying. As long as you’re trying, you won’t fail.”
Do you or someone you know confront your own problems with hearing loss, or have you stopped trying? The Center for Hearing & Speech is here to help determine hearing loss causes and treatment options. If you need further assistance, the Center for Hearing & Speech provides hearing help, no matter the ability to pay. Just go to www.chsstl.org or call (314) 968-4710 to schedule an appointment.