AURORA, Colo. – The woman who helped to pioneer hearing screenings for newborns and the matriarch of one of America’s most popular musical families may not have known each other — but they had plenty in common. Marion Downs and Olive Osmond have travelled parallel paths. 

Downs (inset photo above), founder of the Marion Downs Hearing Center​ (MDHC) at University of Colorado Hospital and professor emeritus at the CU School of Medicine, led the way for hearing screenings of every newborn baby in the United States. 

After having two sons with profound hearing loss, Osmond recognized that families needed resources and support.

“Their vision of helping people was fairly similar,” said Justin Osmond of his grandmother and Downs. He now serves as director of sponsorships and corporate relations at MDHC. He also has a hearing loss detected when he was two-years-old. His passion is carrying on his grandmother’s legacy – helping families get their kids the resources they need to thrive.

Birthday bash and building outlook

Downs will be spending her 100th birthday on January 26 with members of the Osmond family. Donny Osmond will perform at the Celebrating the Legacy Awards Gala. The event is a way to celebrate Downs’ birthday, honor Olive Osmond and officially announce plans for a new building to house the programs she pioneered.

The building will be a premier hearing facility housing education, research and clinical care for people with hearing loss and their families.

MDHC Facility rendering“There are 36 million Americans affected by hearing loss in this country,” said Sandra Gabbard, Ph.D., MDHC’s executive director. “Approximately 80 percent of those people aren’t getting any help. Many of them are withdrawing because they can’t hear, and they are missing out on precious time with friends and family.”

It’s expected the new facility will allow MDHC to expand existing programs and create opportunities to serve the deaf and hard of hearing community.

“We take a cradle to grave approach,” said Gabbard. “Among other things, we educate deaf children, give cochlear implants to adults with hearing loss and provide family support and community resources. We are excited about meeting the needs of even more people.”

Famous family focus

Olive Osmond’s sons became famous singing to raise money to pay for hearing aids for their older brothers.

“I don’t know if you know this but hearings aids are expensive!” said Justin. “My grandmother saw a need so she started a foundation to help families get hearing aids for their children. Marion is the pioneer in pediatric audiology. Everybody wants to know her. It’s a perfect partnership. “

Olive Osmond’s foundation became the Children’s Miracle Network.

This year’s gala starring Donny Osmond takes place January 26 at the Hyatt Regency Tech Center. The event will be hosted by TV show Dukes of Hazzard star John Schneider. For ticket information, call 720-848-3042.


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