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March 24. 2013 9:33PM

Nashua police officer's hearing loss can't slow him down

NASHUA - When Sgt. Joseph Molinari of the Nashua Police Department began experiencing hearing complications a decade ago at the age of 37, he admits it was a little frightening and quite unsettling.

"At first it just seemed like I had some water or bubbling in my ear, and I was given an antihistamine and told it would get better," said Molinari.

Months later the ear problem persisted and had also extended to his other ear, prompting Molinari to seek advice from multiple experts.

"Everyone I talked to said I was too young to be having hearing issues, but one doctor finally noticed that was the actual problem," he said.

Now, at the age of 47, the city police sergeant has finally found a hearing device that works well for his job and has helped him overcome his hearing challenges.

Molinari says he has been lucky, and the hearing loss in both his ears hasn't affected his policing abilities thanks to the helpful devices he calls earbuds.

Now, Molinari is being recognized as one of 12 finalists in the running for the Oticon Focus on People Awards, a national program that honors hearing-impaired students, adults and advocacy volunteers who have demonstrated through their accomplishments that hearing loss does not limit a person's ability to make a difference in their families, communities and the world, according to a release.

"Joe was determined to show that addressing his hearing loss would strengthen his ability to serve the community and his fellow officers. In a profession where physical and emotional strength is respected and necessary, Joe said he was terrified of walking into the locker room for the first time with hearing instruments," says Molinari's story posted on Oticon's website.

It goes on to say that the hearing devices made an immediate difference, as shortly thereafter he was able to hear a passing motorist yell to him across heavy traffic, alerting him to a motor vehicle accident and unresponsive driver.

Molinari, who has worked for the city police force since 1994, said he likely would not have heard the screams without the hearing instruments, and as a result, he was able to revive the injured driver.

Molinari said last week that he experimented with numerous ear pieces before finding what works for him, explaining people in his situation often get very frustrated with the process, the doctors and equipment.

He credits a new audiologist in Lawrence, Mass., for helping him overcome his reservations and fears about his hearing loss. Now, Molinari is embracing his hearing impairment and empowering local children to do the same. The police sergeant has helped coach youth lacrosse and basketball, where one of his players also uses hearing aids.

"I was so glad to have that kid on my team, because I really get it," said Molinari. "I knew that I had to look him in the face and make eye contact with him when I was coaching, and I knew how to explain the situation to his teammates as well. It is amazing how short-sighted people can be if they are not educated."

Molinari is inspiring others with hearing loss to make the most of their challenges and overcome the hardships.

"By spotlighting people with hearing loss and their contributions, Oticon aims to change outdated stereotypes that discourage people from seeking professional help for their hearing loss," says the release from Oticon.

The public is encouraged to vote on Oticon's website for their favorite candidates, including Molinari, who is one of three adult finalists. Overall, there are 12 finalists in the running.

Top winners in all categories will receive a $1,000 award in addition to a $1,000 donation to the nonprofit group of their choice.

Voting is open until March 31 at www.oticonusa.com.

Winners will be announced next month.

khoughton@newstote.com


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