Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

N.J. Walk for Hearing Is Sunday

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

N.J. Walk for Hearing Is Sunday

Article excerpt

Though dubbed as an "invisible disease," hearing loss isn't going unnoticed this weekend.

Hundreds of families, walkers and teams will join together Sunday for the annual New Jersey Walk4Hearing in Mercer County Park, putting the challenges faced by 48 million Americans front and center.

The 3.1-mile walk in West Windsor aims to provide education about hearing loss, erase the stigma and raise funds for programs helping those affected, said Arlene Romoff of Hackensack, co-founder and former president of the Hearing Loss Association of New Jersey.

"In 2014, we think whatever has to be done has been done already with disabilities. But hearing loss, we're behind 100 years. We've only just begun," she said.

The event, to start at 10 a.m., has a fundraising goal of $95,000, with $53,646 raised so far. Money raised helps cover installation costs of hearing-assisted technology, to amplify sound for the hearing impaired in public libraries, museums and hospitals. It also covers costs for hearing aids for people who cannot afford them and open captioning in local theaters.

Romoff, who is profoundly deaf, had normal hearing until her late teens when she started to experience the first stages of a slow, degenerative hearing loss. She now has cochlear implants, small electronic devices that help provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf. Romoff said she started the New Jersey Walk4Hearing event in 2008 and uses her team, Ask Arlene, as an outlet to offer her experience to others.

"Over the 45 years that I've battled with hearing loss, you become a spokesperson: Just 'Ask Arlene,' " she said.

In addition to leading her own team, Romoff takes on a larger role on the day of the event. "I become the meeter-and-greeter, because I value each of the teams that sign up because they symbolize hearing loss with their stories: children born deaf or senior citizens who are suffering with hearing aids, or someone looking to find caption theaters or movies," she said.

The event allows people of all ages to connect, Romoff said, adding that children with cochlear implants often feel alienated from their peers. "It's not until you have an event like this; it's like the ugly duckling who finally finds all of the swans," she said. "They couldn't believe they found so many people just like them."

In addition to the walk, there will be giveaways, children's activities and refreshments, fulfilling the socialization objective Romoff had in mind when she started the event seven years ago. …

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