Stacy Talwar, 49, has had hearing problems for about 20 years.
"I can't crisply hear sounds, especially voices," the Ridgeside resident said.
An English teacher at Ridgeland High School, she has issues understanding what her students are saying and often has to ask them to repeat their questions. Even when students are quiet, the sounds of shuffling notebooks and backpacks makes it difficult to for her to hear.
"Sometimes kids think I'm ignoring them," Talwar said.
That will change when school starts back in the fall. Last week, Beltone gave her a set of hearing aids free of charge.
"I have really good insurance; it's just something that's not covered well for people my age," said Talwar, one of two local recipients of free hearing aids from Beltone.
When she was first diagnosed with otosclerosis, Talwar purchased hearing amplifiers from Amazon because they were less expensive than hearing aids — for which her insurance would only cover up to $1,500 of the cost every five years.
The average cost of hearing aids is between $2,500 and $5,000, depending on the person's type of hearing loss and whether they need one or two, according to Jennifer Carson, marketing manager for Beltone South.
"That ($1,500 insurance coverage) doesn't even cover the cost of one ear," said Talwar, who nominated herself to receive the free hearing aids from Beltone. "In my work environment, it makes it so much easier to clearly be able to hear what they're saying."
Every May, Beltone South owner Perry Ebel gives away free hearing aids to a person nominated by their community in honor of Healthy Hearing Month. This year, he found two of the nominees' stories so compelling that he gave away two sets.
East Ridge resident Betty Asbury struggles with hearing loss in both ears, and was nominated to receive free hearing aids by her daughter, Wendy Baughn. Both volunteer with H3 Ministries, cooking and serving hot meals for the homeless in the East Ridge, Chattanooga and North Georgia areas every Thursday.
H3 Ministries volunteers also assist the homeless with relocation when they are forced to leave an area where they've been living, and it's on those occasions that Asbury really wished she could better understand the people she's trying to help.
She is also very active in her church, Redemption to the Nations, but was unable to understand the sermons unless Baughn took notes and read them to her.
"I can't wait to hear [the sermon] Wednesday night," Asbury said shortly after being fitted for her first set of hearing aids at Beltone on Lee Highway, adding, "It will be great to hear all my outdoor friends when they're talking, to hear and understand what they say."
Once outfitted with the hearing devices, Asbury said she could make out conversations in the hallway of the hearing center through a closed door — something she'd never have been able to do before.
Several hours after receiving her hearing aids, Talwar also reported being able to hear for the first time certain sounds, such as her dog's claws scratching the hardwood floors, the motor of her refrigerator, and the birds chirping outside her window.
"I'm just very happy," Talwar said. "It's going to help me a lot."
Email Emily Crisman at firstname.lastname@example.org