CLERMONT, Fla. – A local garbage truck driver received a priceless gift this Christmas, all thanks to a handwritten letter.
Joseph Dimeglio has lived with severe hearing loss since 1997 and received hearing aids from a friend who lost a relative more than two decades ago.
"If I take them out I can't even hear the water running," Dimeglio said.
For several years, he sought help to repair his failing hearing aids from several audiologists in Central Florida, but was turned away. That was until he found Dr. Kristen Weinbaum, owner of Precision Hearing.
"We've been fixing them and doing what we can with them, and trying to keep them working so he can keep his license," Weinbaum said.
Weinbaum herself has severe hearing loss, and has spent nearly five years helping patients in the Clermont area. As a way to give back to her patients, weeks before the end of 2018 she decided to hold an essay contest to give away a pair of state-of-the-art Oticon Opn Hearing Aids, retail value $4,400.
Weinbaum appeared on News 6 at 9 to spread the word about the contest.
Dimeglio jumped at the opportunity to enter the "Gift of Hearing" contest.
"I am a CDL truck driver who has to pass physicals in order to drive," Dimeglio wrote in his entry.
Dimeglio provides for two households, and hearing aids are not covered by his insurance. He worried that if they stopped working, he could lose his job.
“My hearing loss limits what I can do. It’s getting harder every day to understand and communicate," Dimeglio wrote.
A panel of judges read through the essays submitted by more than a dozen patients, and in the end, Dimeglio was the winner.
Five days before Christmas, Dimeglio returned to Precision Hearing to be fitted for his new hearing aids. He took out the old hearing aids, and for a moment of silence, waited as Weinbaum clicked through the checks on her computer.
"OK, just turned them on, how does my voice sound? You need it louder?" Weinbaum said.
"That's crazy," Dimeglio responded.
It took a moment to sink in, but Dimeglio later called it an emotional experience. It was a life-changing gift he never expected to win.
The team at Precision Hearing said they contacted everyone who entered the contest and were working to help find solutions for their individual needs. Weinbaum said she was happy to see such a deserving winner.
"I mean if you ever saw a hardworking person it's him," Weinbaum said.