Neil Donnenfeld is challenging friends, family and community members to join him in taking a plunge at Fisherman's Beach to benefit the Acoustic Neuroma Association. (Courtesy Photo)
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Swampscott resident prepared to take icy plunge for charity

SWAMPSCOTT — For 56-year-old town resident Neil Donnenfeld, noise is painful. What he deals with all day long is the equivalent of having a basketball referee whistle full blast right next to his ear.

A good day for him is when the referee whistle is only about a 5 on a 1-10 volume scale. Donnenfeld is deaf in one ear and has hyperacusis, or extreme sensitivity to sound — he has been left partially disabled from a rare non-cancerous brain tumor called an acoustic neuroma, which develops on the main (vestibular) nerve leading from a person's inner ear to their brain.

Donnenfeld said the condition forced him into early retirement, when he was 51 and the CEO of a drug company that manufactures and markets TheraTears, an over-the-counter product that treats dry eyes.

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