A local teacher got the gift of hearing, after winning a contest with Beltone. The company fitted Stacy Talwar for a pair of custom hearing aids free of charge.

Imagine hearing like you were under water, with everything muffled. Talwar says that's what every day is like for her. Which makes her job teaching high school English even harder.

“Communication, that's my job, I talk to people I teach all day,” Talwar said. “So thinking that it might inhibit that, makes me sad. So I'm excited about this and the possibility of this."

So Talwar entered Beltone's annual giveaway for free hearing aids. She was one of two winners this year.

Her doctor recommended hearing aids after a surgery last year. But the costs, even with insurance, kept her from hearing clearly.

“It’s like $1500 once every five years and that doesn't even cover the cost of one ear,” she said.

Talwar says insurance would cover more if she was a child, or on Medicaid or Medicare, but she's 49. Hearing specialist Latisha Ashcraft says hearing problems at Talwar's age are more common than people think.

“The perception of hearing aids is that they're for older people, but really most of the time hearing loss starts when you're younger and just over time gets worse."

Talwar's hearing won't be getting any worse for now. She left Beltone today with her first pair of custom hearing aids. She says the gift will open up a whole new world.

“I do sometimes in social situations, I just kind of stay to myself or close set of friends, maybe not be as social because I just don't hear well,” she said. “It's a little embarrassing. So I'm excited to not feel inhibited by not being able to hear."