Courtesy of Debbie Clark Dawn Deardorf, left, is fitted with a free hearing aid at Los Altos-based Pacific Hearing Service last month by Dr. Brook Raguskus.

When Dawn Deardorf put on her hearing aid for the first time, she started to cry.

“I could hear stuff,” she said. “I realized how much I couldn’t hear before.”

Deardorf won a free hearing aid from Pacific Hearing Service in Los Altos last month as part of a contest in which people could nominate someone they believe deserved to receive the device.

Deardorf, who runs a catering service with her husband, was nominated by Joanna Baldwin, who has been friends with Deardorf for 27 years. Baldwin, who has a hearing aid herself, knew Deardorf was struggling. At restaurants, there would be times when they would be out with a group of their friends and Deardorf would sit back, giving up on trying to understand the conversation.

“When somebody would ask her a question, she would try to figure out, ‘Who’s talking?’” Baldwin said.

Deardorf said she has approximately 45% hearing in her right ear, and decent hearing in her left ear. She first noticed her hearing deficiency when she was 7 years old, but just lived with it. A hearing aid can cost thousands of dollars, and Deardorf in recent years has worked through numerous struggles including a stage 3 breast cancer diagnosis. The COVID-19 pandemic also has affected Deardorf’s catering business, because there are fewer events to serve.

Knowing her friend’s life journey inspired Baldwin to nominate Deardorf. Baldwin said finding out that her friend won the hearing aid was the “best feeling of all my 2020.” After she received the email, she called Deardorf and together they laughed and cried.

Deardorf said she’s looking forward to being able to hear friends’ conversations at dinners, and also not having the volume turned up to 45 when watching television with her husband.

“The whole thing has been incredibly overwhelming,” Deardorf said. “I don’t have the words to express my gratitude. It’s hard to put these feelings into words because they’re so expansive.”

Pacific Hearing Service is located at 496 First St., Suite 120, Los Altos. For more information, visit pacifichearingservice.com.