NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – Roughly 30 years ago when Dan Carione took an oath to protect and serve with the NYPD, he had no idea that someday he would take on another role as a civilian fighting for others.
Now he’s a champion for the hearing impaired.
“The negative stereotypes surrounding the use of modern, digital hearing aids and the stereotypes of those with hearing loss are a key reason why I went through what I went through with losing my job over my hearing loss,” Carione told WCBS 880’s Sean Adams.
In 1996 while he was on patrol in Brooklyn, he and his partner confronted a crazed man with a 14-inch knife.
“Unfortunately he charged me with the knife, forcing me to shoot at him, along with partner, and tragically he was killed,” he said.
His partner’s gun was right next to his right ear.
Carione was in shock. The trauma of the shooting left him numb and dazed. He didn’t realize the problem until his brother tried getting his attention later.
“That’s when I said, ‘Oh my god, I can’t hear you. My right ear – I cannot hear out of my right ear,’” he said.
For a dozen years he compensated by tilting his head to hear and offering generic responses when he didn’t quite catch a question.
“I lost my hearing in ’96 and I didn’t come forward for a hearing aid until about 2009. I did as most people do — I allowed my vanity, I let my ego, I allowed the negative stereotypes associated with using hearing aids keep me from exploring the use of a hearing aid,” he said. “Although hearing loss is invisible, the damage that it causes to your life is very tangible. In lost communication, in lost moments, you become disconnected. Over time that translates into pain, anguish, isolation. Over time it translates into real loss, tangible loss.
“So the idea of pushing forward and trying to change that conversation and getting people to understand that hearing technology is not your grandfather’s technology anymore, it’s not your grandfather’s hearing aid. It’s incredible – what it can do and how it can reconnect you to what hearing loss has taken from you.”
Carione finally sought help and was fitted with a Beltone hearing aid. The high-tech device connects to an app and allows technicians to remotely check on any developments.
He eventually regained use of his right ear, but he lost something else. The NYPD policy prohibited anyone with a hearing aid from being a police officer.
Carione turned to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who wore two hearing aids himself. He also hired an attorney.
“She saved my life,” he said.
The department offered to reinstate him, but refused to change the policy. After four years, it decided to settle.
“I didn’t start off wanting to be an advocate for anybody, I was my own advocate, I was fighting for my own family,” he said. “But then over the four years it took me to litigate, I found and was greeted by hundreds of these men and women, many of them American veterans, war veterans.”
Beltone has recognized Carione as a hero.
“I’m very proud of my service to the city of New York and the people of New York, but that pales in comparison to what I’ve been able to do as an advocate for those who deserve a voice and those who deserve the same opportunities as someone else,” he said.