36 Under 36 2009: Jake Spinowitz, 18

 Born with severe hearing loss, Jake Spinowitz was fitted for hearing aids at age 1. Every few years, as technology improved, he upgraded to a new pair. Then, during his freshmen year of high school, he woke up one morning and everything was muted. "It was scary," the Woodbury, L.I., teen says. "Even with the hearing aids, I couldn’t hear anything." Three months later, he underwent a successful cochlear implant surgery.

Suddenly, Spinowitz no longer needed his hearing aids. He decided to donate his old hearing aids, but had a hard time locating an organization that would take them. So he created his own — Lend an Ear Long Island (http://lendanearlongisland.com). "I was inspired to do this because I saw a great need inside and outside of my community," he says. Hearing aids cost thousands of dollars and, in many cases, insurance does not cover the cost. "There are only a handful of states where a bill has passed which makes it mandatory for insurance companies to pay part of the cost of hearing aids for children under a certain age," Spinowitz says. "In New York this bill has not passed."

Spinowitz got a local post office box and registered for a domain name. He posted flyers in the offices of local audiologists and spread the word among physicians and community members. By April 2008, when an article about his organization appeared on the cover of Newsday, he had received well over 200 hearing aids.

The big breakthrough came in Dec. 2007, when Eric Spar, vice president of hearing-aid manufacturer Widex, sent Spinowitz 30 brand-new Widex hearing aids with lifetime warranties. Last holiday season, Spar sent 30 more, a gift valuing upwards of $90,000.
Spinowitz divided the hearing aids between three organizations: Hear Now in Minnesota, The Children’s Hearing Institute in Manhattan, and The New York League for the Hard of Hearing, also in Manhattan.

A graduating senior, Spinowitz plans to continue Lend an Ear while at college. "I know how much the gift of hearing means to me," he says. "It’s priceless."

First song he heard after surgery: "Bold as Love" by Jimi Hendrix. "I never heard the drum cymbals," he says. Other honors: Spinowitz was a Bronfman Youth Fellow in 2008. Rock on: Spinowitz plays lead guitar in two different bands: Spin the Kitty, a trio band that focuses on classic and alternative rock, and Platinum Circus, a funk band.


Staff Writer


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