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This Veterans Day, we spoke with Jim Hoonski, who was enlisted in both the Air Force and Navy Reserve for over 31 years. More recently, Jim has been fighting for his right to hear again. Keep reading to learn about Jim’s time serving his country and his personal approach to addressing hearing loss.

Jim’s Story:

I was in the Air Force from 1973 to 1977 and in the Navy Reserve from 1986 to 2013. During my time in the Air Force, I was mainly in Texas and in Florida,  which was, ironically, the one place where my father didn’t want me during college, as I’d be with my buddies. When I shifted to the Navy Reserve, I was able to travel across the United States and visit many places in the world.

The first year, they sent me to Virginia. On my second assignment, they sent me to a Naval Hospital in Naples, Italy. My family and I were able to see so much of the world during this assignment. One of my favorite assignments was when I went to England to work in a medical clinic at the US Embassy. I’ve been up and down the East and West Coasts of the US. For a while, I was based in Everett, Washington. It was absolutely gorgeous. Seeing everything and being in different places — it totally rounds you up.

Whether it was with the Air Force or the Navy Reserve, I can tell you this: In my 31 years and 4 months, I have never seen a shot fired in anger. Every time that I was mobilized, it was to back up a stateside station or a rear station so that other people could move forward.

I finally retired three years ago and started to work for the State of New York. Right now, I’m working part-time at a school and a Hospital to help others.

When did you first address your hearing loss?

I first noticed that I had hearing loss when I was in service. The hospital barracks were next to the runways and we were always hearing the jets. When I had my physical, they told me that my hearing was down a bit. They blamed it on rock concerts and headphone use. However, over time, it got progressively worse. Every time we’d go out for shooting for qualifications, I felt like I was inside a tunnel. Afterwards, I couldn’t hear well for at least week or two.

Around 2009, I finally took action and got hearing aids. My hearing loss was starting to affect my work, and I couldn’t hear things that I needed to. During that time, I was a nurse. In that role, it is important to hear people when you’re assessing them. In order to help someone, it’s necessary to understand what’s bothering them.

When you got hearing aids, what did you notice first?

When I regained my hearing ability, it was as if the world opened up. It’s the simple things that you don’t realize you didn’t appreciate: from the door closing to the birds chirping, or even the small noises that you took for granted.

Advice to those that are starting to get hearing loss:

Don’t be too proud. Get the hearing aid. Go get tested. See what you need. The technology today makes hearing aids so discreet, you can’t even see them that much. Go get the hearing aids to hear and enjoy life again.  

Jim Hoonski was interviewed by Priyanka Jaisinghani for this article.