Faces in the Crowd: Donald Ackerman Sr.
Donald Ackerman Sr. is a veteran who faced an obstacle of a hearing impairment and overcame it. He went on to do life changing advocacy for his fellow veterans.
You could classify Donald Ackerman Sr. as a loud and proud veteran advocate.
After joining the Army at 17 years old, he served 2 tours in Vietnam. In 1973 he was diagnosed with a tumor in his left ear. He had surgery but it was not successful and he was left little to no hearing abilities.
Don still went on to have a vibrant career in the military until his retirement in in 1987. He even went on to work for the Department of Defense and NCIS in Washington DC.
He says hearing was always an issue but his performance kept him employed.
Ackerman says, “I still did great things, but I didn’t communication with people, I didn’t associate with people. Now I’m so much of an extrovert that it’s probably silly.”
He can hear now because of a implantable hearing device- a cochlear implant that he says was “life changing.” Getting the implant he says is a learning process, but once you get it- its worth it. He remembers the first time he heard running water, saying “but once I saw the running water … and that sound went on, so it’s a learning process – it changes life like you would never believe.”
More than 2.7 million veterans suffer from hearing loss. Due to the nature of war, the extreme noises can alter the hearing for so many. Ackerman says, “In the military the jobs you have – it’s a very loud environment, intense, especially in combat – combat there is no filter, you just go where you need to go.”
After 39 years of near silence and being anti-social, Don was reintroduced to the world of sound and in fact became the center of change in his community when he became the driving force in the fight to keep the local VA in Hot Springs open. Donald says he never would have taken on the battle of the VA if he would not have been able to hear.
Ackerman says fighting for veterans rights is a natural fit for himself, “For me it was important to save the VA based on the fact – so many veterans just need to sit with their fellow veterans and get taken care of.”
In 2010, he was awarded “Citizen of the Year,” and still today continues to advocate for veteran issues, like encouraging vets to see is a cochlear implant is the right fit for them.
Every 6 months he goes to Denver to get a ‘tune-up’ with his implant to hear better each day.
Click here for more information on the Cochlear implant.