David Haffner, An Ear to the Ground

By Laura A. Hobson


J. B. Boothe and David Haffner in Katie’s Room. Katie Haumesser Foundation wanted to partner with HSDC and establish a central place for kids in OT and ST.

Often people with a disability will volunteer with an organization that serves their particular diagnosis. This is the case with David L. Haffner, long-time resident of Hyde Park.

Although Haffner’s hearing loss started in the late 1970s, it took several years to obtain a diagnosis of Meniere’s disease. He had episodes of dizziness, varying loss of hearing, nausea and other symptoms. The disease ultimately left him completely deaf in his left ear and an 80% loss of hearing in his right ear. A hearing aid at a cost of $2,500 - $3,000 enables Haffner to navigate his environment. “With adult onset, you just have to deal with it,” he said.

Nonetheless, Haffner entered the field of financial planning and worked for 40 years. He eventually retired from Raymond James. Communication was important to him as he dealt with clients, but he never hid the fact that he had a hearing issue.

Haffner used a head set made by Plantronics to communicate over the phone. Some days it was difficult to take phone calls at all. The disease also prevented him from playing his favorite sports of tennis and squash. He further mentioned the hearing public sometimes has a hard time understanding the impairment.

He talked about the lack of self-confidence because he couldn’t communicate well. He chooses activities which push him out of himself, such as serving as lector at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer. One tends to get isolated, if you can’t hear, according to Haffner. But, he never chose the spotlight or a pity party.

“My impairment is a gift as I am a lot more empathetic to people who are hearing impaired,” said Haffner. Now 70, Haffner started coming to Hearing Speech & Deaf Center of Greater Cincinnati (HSDC) in 2014 as a client.

Jack Gottschalk, DDS, a friend of Haffner’s, recruited David to serve on the HSDC board. Haffner accepted and has served since 2006. He found the work therapeutic and rewarding. He stays up-to-date with new technology, such as improvements made in hearing aids. In addition, he serves on the board as secretary, on the Executive/Finance Committee and on the Development Committee.

Composed of board, staff and community members, the Development Committee decided in October 2016 to award a volunteer for significant service. Haffner’s name came immediately to mind, according to J. B. Boothe, chief executive officer, who said, “David has exceeded expectations.”

For instance, HSDC needed two computers for audiologists. Haffner’s hand went up immediately at a board meeting when the request was made. He wrote a check, and the computers were delivered within a week.

Boothe said Haffner always offers to help. When board members were asked to provide names of potential donors, Haffner came up with 100 names rather than the usual 10 – 15. “I don’t know what we would do without Haffner,” said Boothe, who asked him about the award over a cup of coffee.

HSDC wanted to create a marquee annual event to share its mission and message on a wide platform as well as raise funds to continue making an impact on the community. According to Brian Hiles, HSDC director of development and marketing, the financial goal this year is $75,000.

The organization held the first Laura and Richard Kretschmer Service Award Gala on Thursday, May 18 at the Cincinnati Women’s Club and honored Haffner and the Kretschmers. The award is named after Drs. Kretschmers, who not only worked at HSDC, but have also served on the board since 2012.

Laura became an audiologist with an Ed.D. from Columbia in 1972. Her husband Richard received an Ed.D. in special education from Columbia as well. Although they both worked at HSDC early in their careers, they ended up at the University of Cincinnati, eventually reaching the rank of full professor and retiring as emeriti.

“We were surprised and flattered,” said Dr. Laura Kretschmer when the couple learned of the impending award. Close friends with Jean Rothenberg, D. H. L., who was committed to the center, the Kretschmers thought they were following in her footsteps, making it a heartfelt honor.

William Culp, long-time Hyde Park resident, insurance agent and close personal friend of Haffner, serves as gala chair. Haffner chose Culp for his passion for supporting nonprofits. Culp said his wife Polly and Haffner were both in Glendale Elementary School, so the ties go back many years. When Haffner ended up in Atlanta for personal reasons, Culp encouraged him to come back where his friends were.

“What I learned from David,” said Culp, “is how kind he is and how willing he is to help.” Haffner serves as power of attorney for a member of Culp’s family. “He is committed to his church and helping others,” added Culp. “He works out regularly and has lots of friends. I think this is a great honor for him.”

Haffner is the first recipient of this award because of his years of service at HSDC and passion for the organization. He said his diagnosis is one of the main reasons he volunteers. He notes the center provides care for people who don’t have the resources for the services as well as private patients.

In addition to Haffner, many Hyde Park area residents serve as board members. These include Roy Kulick, M.D., Mt. Lookout, board chair; Patrick Crotty, Mt. Lookout; Ron Weitzenkorn, treasurer, Mt. Lookout; Kevin Murray, Hyde Park; Jody Lazarow, advisory board, Hyde Park; and Jim Metzger, advisory board, Oakley.

Mrs. Anna Pattison, wife of Ohio governor John M. Pattison (1906), founded the Cincinnati League for the Hard of Hearing in 1925. Volunteers ran programs, primarily social and recreational in nature.

The impetus for initiating professional service delivery came from Rothenberg, who suffered a hearing loss due to complications from influenza, and made it her life’s work to help people obtain adequate care in Cincinnati. She traveled to other cities, trained with professionals at the Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center and apprenticed with Mary Whitehurst in New York City as an aural rehabilitation clinician. The Cincinnati Enquirer selected her as Woman of the Year in 1982.

By 1950, Rothenberg increased her collaborative efforts with the League and opened the Cincinnati Speech and Hearing Center. In 1999, the name was changed to the Hearing Speech & Deaf Center of Greater Cincinnati. Today, it is a freestanding facility providing many services including audiology and community services for the deaf and speech-language pathology, according to Hiles.

Boothe, who has headed up HSDC for one and a half years, said a grant of $30,000 from the Spaulding Foundation has paid for two Audioscan Verifit2s. Audiologists will use the device to determine the measurement of the sound a hearing aid is delivering to the eardrum, taking into account the acoustic properties of the ear canal. When they do a hearing aid fitting, audiologists will find the device gives them a more accurate reading.

HSDC touched the lives of over 6,800 clients in 2016, according to Boothe. Of that number, 2,536 patients took advantage of services offered by departments of audiology, speech therapy and occupational therapy. Community Services for the Deaf program, i.e., deaf advocacy and American Sign Language, reached 2,987 clients. The center moved to 2825 Burnet Ave. in May 2001 to allow for more space and to expand programming. In addition, there are two satellite offices in West Chester and Eastgate. For more information, please visit www.hearingspeechdeaf.org.

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