How waving down a stranger changed the life of a vet with hearing loss

Nov 17, 2022, 6:34 PM | Updated: Dec 1, 2022, 1:31 pm

SALEM, Utah — Thursday was the day Keith Bench wasn’t sure would ever come. Finally, he wasn’t going to feel left out anymore simply because he couldn’t hear well.

“He’s got a severe hearing loss. It’s significant enough that it’s tough to connect with people,” said Cory Cook, who is an audiologist with Earlux. “That hearing is so important to connect us with people.”

Technology has come a long way since the last time Bench, who is 88-years-old, got new hearing aids 20 years ago.

Other medical conditions, while taking care of his wife in their Salem home, always made money tight.

He got pretty good at making out what people were trying to tell him.

“I have to really pay attention to what their lips are moving,” said Bench with a laugh. “I ask them a lot ‘what did you say? What did you say?’”

It was only last week, though, when Bench just happened to meet Kristin Fowles.

“I was going to get a sandwich and the guy walked out in front of me with his cane and held it up and said ‘stop, I need help’ and I said I will help,” Fowles said.

Even in the bad weather, Fowles let Bench into her car.

He was just trying to get to the store.

During their drive, Fowles found out he couldn’t drive because of a stroke and his wife couldn’t drive because of her vision.

She also found out just how bad his hearing was.

So, when Fowles got home, she started a GoFundMe* page to raise $3,000 so Bench could get new hearing aids.

“Two years ago, my son was diagnosed with cancer, in November.  We were inundated with people helping us and it’s been my mission ever since then to help back,” Fowles said.

She posted about Bench on her social media pages.

Almost right away, the donations poured in.

Even to where Earlux, a company that specializes in hearing loss and hearing aids, decided to give Bench a free pair of their best hearing aids.

Bench had served in the U.S. Army in the 1950’s and Cook said his company wanted to help.

“When we hear about people who have served us and have been a part of that, we want to support our veterans,” Cook said. “They deserve to be taken care of.”

This brings us to Thursday afternoon on Bench’s couch, where Cook put the hearing aids in Bench’s ears.

“Can you see the red right there? Red is for right,” Cook told Bench. “They’re not on yet. I’ll turn them on in a minute.”

“You’re going to make me cry,” Bench said.

And just like that, with a click on a computer laptop, Bench didn’t feel so alone anymore.

“Oh. That sounds great,” Bench said with tears in his eyes. “It’s a miracle. I’m about ready to bust out crying. It is crystal clear.”

Earlux even gave his wife hearing aids.

It turns out she had some hearing loss, too.

And that $3,000?

Fowles said it became $14,000 with all the donations, and it’s still growing, which will now be spent to pay off their medical debt and upgrade some of their home appliances.

“I haven’t got words to say it. I have no idea. It’s just beautiful,” Ranee Bench said while looking at Fowles. “She is an angel. I know she is because the Lord sent her.”

The Bench’s even joked he couldn’t use his hearing loss to get out of chores anymore.

“You want these back?” Keith asked with a laugh to Cook.

All these smiles and laughs were because Bench asked for help.

And someone listened.

“Thank you,” he said.

*KSL TV does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

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How waving down a stranger changed the life of a vet with hearing loss