An Unusual Health Niche: Wall Street Couple Tackles Hearing Problems

Steven G. Einhorn, Vice Chairman at Omega Advisors, and his wife Shelley, move their philanthropic contributions through the Einhorn Family Foundation. Einhorn spent most his career at Goldman Sachs before moving to Leon Cooperman's Omega Advisors in 1999. Omega had over $9 billion assets under management at the end of 2014. While it's unclear how much Einhorn is worth, his foundation has been around since 1989, and since 2002, has given between $1 and $2 million annually.

The Einhorns don't exactly spread their money around to a lot of different causes, but health is high on their list, which is good news for grantseekers. In recent years, the Migraine Research Fund, NYU Langone Medical Center and Damon Runyon Cancer Center have received modest sums. It's worth noting that Einhorn's boss,  Leon Cooperman, serves as vice chair at Damon Runyon. I've written before about how another hedge fund star and former Cooperman right hand man has given modestly to Damon Runyon, perhaps influenced by Cooperman.

The Einhorns already have a long track record and enough motivation for their health philanthropy. It turns out that it's not just cancer research, but supporting hearing that is a top priority of this funder. Yes, you heard right, hearing—a cause we don't see many donors taking up.

The Einhorns have been giving steadily to the Center for Hearing and Communication (CHC) in Lower Manhattan for years. CHC has supported those who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind since its founding in 1910. Between 2010 and 2013 alone, the Einhorns gave at least $1 million to CHC.

What's the deal here? Shelley is a client of the Center for Hearing and Communication and uses a hearing aid. She's on the board of directors as well. Shelley had long complained about her hearing aid not being fine-tuned, and believed that there needed to be innovation. To that end, the Einhorns established the Shelley and Steven Einhorn Audiology and Communication Center within the Center for Hearing and Communication. It's unclear how much money the Einhorns put into this center, but the space boasts "state-of-the-art hearing testing and hearing aid fitting, and special expertise in evaluating and providing hearing aids to very young infants and children."

That last bit about infants and children is intriguing, and according to Lois Kam Heymann, director at the Shelley and Steven Einhorn Center, some social and learning lags in children might not be caused by behavioral problems, but by hearing problems. In other words, hearing trouble isn't just an afflication of the old. According to CHC, Auditory Processing Disorder or APD affects one in every 100 kids and is characterized by "a confusing ability to hear but not listen well, difficulty processing language appropriately, and frustration in communication."

Interesting.

The Einhorns have also given $1 million to establish the Shelley and Steven Einhorn Clinical Research Center at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mt. Sinai. As well, in 2007 Einhorn and Shelley put $5 million down to establish the Shelley and Steven Einhorn Laboratory for Experimental Cancer Therapeutics.

Note that the Einhorn Family Foundation is not to be confused with hedge fund billionaire David Einhorn's Einhorn Family Charitable Trust. True, both are located in New York. You could also say they're both focused on a kind of hearing. For David Einhorn, that's empathy. For Einhorn and Shelley, well, they just want us all to hear better. Literally.