A lucky find: Clinton woman's hearing aids found at landfill

John Rohlf/Clinton Herald Trucks are unloaded at the Clinton County Landfill on Thursday. Landfill employees, staff members from Rittmer and family members searched the landfill in late May and successfully found two hearing aids that a Clinton woman had mistakenly thrown in the garbage.

CLINTON — Like a finding a needle in a haystack, a Clinton woman's hearing aids were recovered at the Clinton County landfill after being inadvertently thrown in the garbage.

Linda Smith was sick in late May when, after coming home from the doctor, one of her hearing aids lost its battery charge and went out. The second hearing aid later lost its charge and she set both hearing aids on a table. She later picked up a pile of tissues and threw them in the waste basket, unknowingly throwing the hearing aids in the waste basket with the tissues. The garbage, with the tissues and the hearing aids, was taken outside and later picked up by a city of Clinton garbage truck.

Smith, after realizing the hearing aids had been put in the garbage and the garbage had been taken, contacted the city's street department. The driver, after being alerted of the issue, stopped loading the truck. The load was dumped in a separate place so it would be easier to search.

Clinton County Solid Waste Agency Director of Operations and Education Brad Seward said he was alerted by CCASWA employee Susan Waters that there was a city of Clinton truck with picked-up garbage, which may include hearing aids. CCASWA employees requested that Rittmer staff members dump the trash in a separate area. Seward and CCASWA employee Michelle Huizenga, Rittmer employees Aaron Mink and Brad Johnson and the family assisted with the search.

Seward said the group pulled aside two or three bags that fit the description of a white bag with black drawstrings. Seward said they then tore open the bags and found tissues. Seward added they found a lasagna tray, which they knew may be in the bag.

"We knew we may be on to something," Seward said. "We put it in a skid loader bucket so we could search off the ground and we weren't losing anything in the ground."

After digging through the tissues, they found one of the hearing aids. The second one appeared shortly thereafter.

Seward said that in most cases, the agency is not able to recover items after they are picked up by garbage trucks. He said people have lost personal belongings, such as phones, keys and wallets and they never find them because they get mixed in with other garbage, making it difficult to find the item.

"The only other success story we had is a lady from Medical Associates lost a ring in a bag and it was a blue bag and we found that," Seward said. "But unless people know the bag, the type of bag it's in and the type of material that's with it we don't have a lot of clues to go off of so you're literally looking for a needle in a haystack."

Seward said it is hard to find items such as hearing aids in the garbage and it is impressive they found the hearing aids. He said the clues from the truck driver and family helped narrow the search, making it possible to find the hearing aids.

Smith and her daughter, Kathy Stoecker, both were appreciative of the CCASWA and Rittmer employees who assisted in the search for the items. They both stressed the importance of finding the hearing aids, citing the financial cost.

"I could never thank them enough," Smith said. "The garbage person for not putting any more garbage on the truck. They stopped and brought it out to the landfill and put it in a separate area. Those from the landfill that were out there helping. Just can't thank them enough. They were just great."