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Interview with Mickey & Jan Rooney

Mickey Rooney, Jan Rooney

June 26, 2006
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Topic: The Starkey Hearing Foundation & Protecting Your Hearing!
Dybala: Hello Mickey and Jan, I am so pleased that you are able to spend some time with me today talking about hearing health and the important work performed by the Starkey Hearing Foundation.

Mickey Rooney: Our pleasure, Paul.

Dybala: Just to get started, I wanted to give our readers a little background on the two of you. Mickey is a stage, film and TV star, whose career spans over 7 decades. This includes an Emmy, a Golden Globe, a Peabody Award and an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement. This illustrious career also includes a Bronze Star with clusters, awarded for your service to our country while serving in the US Army. You performed "Jeep Shows" to help maintain morale by entertaining the soldiers at the front lines in the foxholes during World War II. Thank you for your service!


Mickey Rooney performs "Jeep Shows" during WWII.
Image reprinted with permission from www.mickeyrooney.net

Jan is a similarly talented individual and has been performing with Mickey since 1998 in their successful "One Man One Wife Show". Mickey and Jan were recently awarded a star on the Hollywood walk of fame for their outstanding talent and achievement in live stage performance. This was Mickey's fourth star on the walk of fame.


Jan and Mickey Rooney
Image reprinted with permission from www.mickeyrooney.net

I was actually able to catch your performance earlier here at the Starkey Foundation Award Gala weekend and I must say that I was impressed.

Mickey Rooney: Thank you, Paul. I must say that my biggest accomplishment is my marriage to my wife Jan of over 25 years. She is the love of my life and is the reason that I still enjoy performing.

Jan Rooney:: Thank you, Mickey, I feel the same!

Dybala: Well, it shows. I could really tell that the both of you were having a great time while performing. I only regret that my wife was not here so that I could have danced along!

Let's talk a bit about the Starkey Hearing Foundation.

Mickey Rooney: Bill Austin and his wife Tani are tremendous individuals who do so much to help everyone around the world with the gift of "better hearing". When they called Jan and I to help with the awards gala we were more than happy to help out in any way that we could.

The Starkey Hearing Foundation has performed missions in South America, Mexico, Asia and Africa to fit hearing aids on the children who would not otherwise be able to get hearing help. The foundation's motto is "So the World May Hear" and we think that they have done vitally important work in attaining that goal.

Dybala: I agree. According to the Foundation web site they have dispensed over 85,000 hearing aids world wide, and this includes approximately 35,000 in the US alone. The missions are really amazing as they basically bring a miniature hearing aid factory to the location so that they can provide full-service hearing help! It is my understanding that they are able to fit about 200 children a day with hearing aids, simply amazing!

Jan Rooney:: Human communication is so important to our well being. The work that the Starkey Hearing Foundation does is critical as it brings the gift of hearing to children.

Dybala: You are absolutely correct. There has been some interesting research that has demonstrated that the earlier we are able to get amplification to a child with hearing loss, the more likely that child's spoken language skills can develop at a normal rate.

Jan Rooney:: Well it certainly makes sense, the earlier you can get help with anything the better off a person is!

Dybala: I wanted to ask how the two of you originally got involved with the Starkey Hearing Foundation. Many of the individuals have a personal connection, they either have a hearing loss themselves or a loved one with hearing loss, what was your motivation?

Mickey Rooney: We actually first heard about the foundation through some friends and were so impressed with the work that Starkey does that we got involved. Jan and I are lucky enough to still have pretty good hearing. We still both perform and as singers and musicians and so we understand how important hearing is! This actually leads me to another point I would like to make about hearing and hearing loss, protecting your hearing! Hearing is so vital, it should not be wasted!

I am not sure why, but I think that many young people today are not aware that when they listen to loud music they are damaging their hearing! It is like looking into the sun, you look long enough, and you are going to go blind. If you listen to loud music for too long you can lose your hearing. This is simply a tragedy, as this type of hearing loss could be completely preventable.

Dybala: You are right! It really does not make sense. If you go any into any clubs or live music venues it is impossible to have a conversation without shouting. I like to tell my patients that if you are in a situation where you have to raise your voice to be heard, you are getting into a noise level that can be dangerous to your ears!

I wanted to shift gears a little bit and talk about another hearing health related topic with the two of you, the stigma that currently surrounds adults who wear hearing aids. There have been so many improvements in hearing aid technology, yet there are still so many people in the US who are not getting help. Many people think that this is due to a stigma that is associated with hearing aids. What are your perspectives on this?

Mickey Rooney: I am not sure why more adults with hearing loss do not step forward to get help with hearing loss, but you are right, they really should. Jan and I were able to tour Starkey Labs today and it was really impressive. I can see why they are the leader in hearing aid technology. Oh, I want to introduce you to someone who just came into the room, our son, Chris. Chris this is Dr. Paul Dybala.

Dybala: Hi Chris, nice to meet you.

Chris Aber-Rooney: Nice to meet you, Paul. I think I walked in at the right time as you were talking about the stigma that surrounds hearing aids, correct?

Dybala: Yes, you are correct.

Chris Aber-Rooney: Well, I think it is a shame, and it makes no sense to me. People who wear glasses are considered "smart", why do hearing aids get such an unfair rap? I just had to walk into your conversation, as I think I have an interesting solution to the issue of hearing aid stigma issue.

Dybala: Let's hear it!

Chris Aber-Rooney: Well, what has been interesting is that there are now so many people who wear headsets for use with mobile phones. Also, you see mobile phones that also serve as music players and other devices. What needs to happen is that we need hearing aids and mobile phones and music players to all combine into one device that everyone wears! This way we all wear some sort of hearing "aid"!

Dybala: You are right, when everyone is wearing something it becomes invisible! It is interesting that you mention mobile phones, as Starkey Laboratories is developing new ways to allow the mobile phone to interface with hearing aids called ELI. I think this is the first step towards the idea that you mention Chris.


ELI device connected to a Behind-the-Ear hearing aid.

Chris Aber-Rooney: Well, that is great news then!

Dybala: Thank you Chris, great points! Well, turning back to Mickey and Jan, I wanted to touch on one closing topic with the both of you. That is, if you had a message that you could give to persons who have a hearing loss and are unsure about hearing aids what would that be?

Mickey Rooney: Don't wait! Life is too precious to miss out on anything! Get help for your hearing loss and your life will be so much better.

Jan Rooney:: Yes! We have seen the amazing digital technology that Starkey has created and there really are improvements that have been made with hearing aids. I agree with Mickey, don't wait!

Dybala: Thank you all so much, I really appreciate your time and your message.

Jan Rooney:: Our pleasure.

Mickey Rooney: You are very welcome, Paul.

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More information about Mickey and Jan Rooney: including their "One Man One Wife Show" can be found at their web site at www.mickeyrooney.net

About the Starkey Hearing Foundation

Since 1973, Starkey has been giving the gift of hearing to the world's underprivileged—especially children—through its internationally recognized mission program and its domestic program, Hear Now. Since 2000, the Starkey Hearing Foundation has provided more than 130,000 hearing aids to those in need around the world. Visit www.sotheworldmayhear.org to learn more.

About Starkey Laboratories

Headquartered in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, Starkey Laboratories, Inc. is a worldwide provider of comprehensive digital hearing systems, including custom and standard devices, protection products, instrumentation and unique business solutions. Founded in 1967, Starkey owns the Audibel, Micro-Tech, NuEar, Omni and Qualitone companies and operates facilities in 24 countries. Starkey is the recognized world leader in the design and development of innovative custom digital hearing instruments. For more information visit www.starkey.com
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Mickey Rooney

Star of Stage, Film and Television


Jan Rooney

Star of Stage, Film and Television