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Friday, December 1, 2017

2017 has been a transformative year for audiology, with OTC hearing aids moving the game to a whole new batt​​lefield. How do the recent changes impact the hearing industry and its stakeholders? The Hearing Journal spoke with select industry representatives and here's what they have to say. 

“OTCs are coming and the obvious questions are what impact they will have on the established distribution system for hearing aids, and what opportunities/challenges they present to the hearing health care provider. One of the likely effects is a downward pressure on the average selling price (ASP) of a hearing aid. This will obviously impact overall revenue and profitability. There have been many discussions regarding how to stay price-competitive by using strategies such as unbundling. I am sure we will see a lot more of this. However, I will focus on a few other areas.

So what options are available for countering the effect of a lower ASP? First is operational efficiency. If service is key to patient satisfaction, what percentage of your practice cost is going toward patient facing interaction? Reduce costs not related to providing patient service. Go paperless and reduce data redundancy. Increase efficiency measures for common administrative tasks and clinical activities like charting and medical report writing.

Second is increase patient retention. Only about half of patients purchase their next set of hearing aids from the same practice. Increasing the hearing aid re-purchase rate can have a significant revenue impact on a practice. Develop a strategy for making sure your patients continue to come back to see you for hearing healthcare services. Make sure your practice has an efficient recall system in place, and a communication plan, for creating patient touch-points such as newsletters, birthday cards, etc.

Finally, leverage more revenue opportunities. Target your existing patient base for re-sell opportunities. This can be done with extended warranty sales, annual hearing evaluations, clean and check services, accessory sales, and most importantly by moving up the hearing aid re-sell point.

- Henrik Nielsen, MsC, President of Blueprint Solutions

“As OTC devices become available, there is no doubt the potential to bring new players into the market, outside the traditional suppliers, increasing competition and likely driving down costs to consumers. That said, we continue to see cases where companies unfamiliar with the complexities of treating hearing loss overestimate the ease by which they can access the market, the latest example being the reported closure of Doppler Labs. Whether or not decreased costs will result in increased use of amplification is up for debate. For instance, as discussed by Valente and Amlani (2017), we see that those markets providing hearing aids at little to no cost have similar adoption rates as those markets where hearing aids cost significantly more. No doubt, hearing aid adoption is a complicated issue and cost is but one factor. While the positives potentially include improved access to hearing aids and lower cost alternatives than have been traditionally available, there is also the potential of mistakenly shifting the focus of hearing healthcare towards the product as the sole solution for hearing difficulties.

This new OTC reality provides an opportunity to highlight the value of professional service in the treatment of hearing loss to the community at large. Research has repeatedly shown that patient outcomes with amplification are dependent on how a product is fitted (e.g., Leavitt and Flexer, 2012; Abrams, et al., 2012). Similarly, a soon-to-be published article by Valente and colleagues highlights the importance of verified audibility via real-ear measurements versus a ‘quick fit’ approach in both lab-based and real-world environments on speech recognition, sound quality, hearing aid benefit, and patient preference. I believe these factors will rise in importance with the advent of OTC devices because consumers will have no professional fitting assistance provided to them. Amlani and colleagues (2016; 2017) recently showed the positive impact that clinician services have on patient loyalty, satisfaction, willingness to pay, and perceived value of the provider. To the extent that OTC devices underperform relative to patient expectations, one might envision new business opportunities for clinicians to reach patients who might have otherwise simply lived with their mild to moderate hearing loss. These patients may look for value-added clinical services sooner, given a lower initial cost barrier and improved accessibility to their first amplification experience. Through objective measurements provided by modern audiometric and verification equipment, clinicians will have new opportunities to demonstrate and deliver superior amplification options.”

- John Pumford, AuD, Director of Audiology and Education at Audioscan

“First off, AuDStandard fully supports the independent practice owners and was strongly opposed to the legislation. Every week, I speak with a seasoned practice owner who is frustrated and looking for advice. Add OTC to this decade’s list of disruptors (corporate-owned retail, internet resellers, big box stores, and third-party referral companies), and you can imagine why owners are nervously raising their hands. The good news is that there are places for independent owners to turn.

Practice management groups will continue to grow as a distribution channel. To clarify, I am referring to organizations like AuDStandard that offer value added services that grow member practice’s revenue, while strengthening their foundations for future successes. While lower price is a basic premise of joining a group, it is a short-term benefit. 

Lastly, I see manufacturers strengthening their partnerships with practice management groups. They too see this segment growing as they allocate additional resources in staff (sometimes teams), event sponsorship, and price concessions to support their group partners.”

- Tucker Worster, Managing Director at AuDStandard, LLC

“The movement from traditional amplification towards a consumer electronics model will result in a large expansion of hearing care clients. In addition to our current “clinical clients/patients,” OTCs invite people who prefer to be treated as a consumer. This group may have had either limited access or even resistance to a clinical environment. The “consumer client” will now have hearing care products marketed and designed to appeal to them. For this group, audiologists and dispensers can play a role, not only as a provider of clinical hearing care, but also as an expert reseller of a consumer product. This new business model requires careful consideration of managing consumer expectations, while at the same time controlling touch points and time management. 

This field will quickly fill with new entrants, including well-known audio brands. Staking a position and remaining visible to all prospects is crucial. Ideally, audiologists and dispensers will find marketing messages that support the newly broadened range of available products. New consumers and traditional prospects alike will likely be drawn to familiar brands. Careful selection of OTC products, with focus on rounding out traditional offerings, could be one way to capture interest while also promoting advanced clinical care and performance. 

From there, differentiation can focus on the individualized and customized care that is only available from a hearing care provider. Only hearing care professionals exhibit long-term commitment to success that goes beyond the immediate transaction of an OTC delivery.
In addition to the business model shift from traditional care provider to reseller, the hearing care community will need to meet the needs of consumers who have greater choice than ever before. This will require a blending of both health care and retail approaches - ensuring accessibility, choice, and convenience in addition to the expertise that already exists.

On the instrumentation front, hearing care providers need access to objective tools that facilitate meaningful comparisons between devices. Verification and validation tools are now more important than ever. This is not limited to highlighting the benefit of a specific fitting, but also for objective comparison between the wide array of options, many of which may look similar but perform entirely differently. Design and development of hearing care tools that provide validation, optimal workflow efficiency, and ease-of-use in a hearing care environment, that’s where our focus lies as an audiologic instrumentation provider.”

- Peter Kossek, Senior Product Manager for Fitting Solutions, and Wendy Switalski, Sr. Market Development Manager for Fitting Solutions at Otometrics

“Time will reveal any lasting impacts of OTC hearing aids. In the near-term, competition will increase at the low end of market. This will motivate the audiology community to accelerate product and service innovation for people with mild hearing challenges or tight budgets. Since OTC hearing aids will appeal to some consumers, overall market penetration might increase, too. Most notably, however, OTC hearing aids could anchor consumers.

We are anchored when our decision-making is biased by previous information. With awareness of incumbent hearing aid brands being low outside the audiology community, mass marketing of OTC hearing aids by more familiar brands could anchor consumers on price and performance. Audiologists may see more patients who reject traditional amplification based on price as OTC hearing aids enter the market. They may also see more patients who expect specific product features or are skeptical of aid performance because of their OTC experiences.

Regardless of these impacts, the audiology community has the tools it needs to stay ahead. Audiologists can itemize their products and services, and unbundle them when appropriate, to make pricing transparent and professional value propositions clear. They can dispense hearing aids with open technology that allow competitive pricing today and upgradeability later when patient needs require or budgets allow. In addition, they can employ assistants and other staff to increase efficiency and margins. Most importantly the audiology community can emphasize patient experience.

Patient experience is affected by all products and interactions, both real and virtual, in the hearing healthcare continuum. A great experience includes robust, evidence-based technologies that help people hear better plus remarkable interactions from beginning to end. Increasingly patients expect a no-obligation hearing aid trial, for example, as other consumer industries have raised the bar. Today hearing aids must be respectfully dispensed with pricing transparency and flexibility, timeliness and perceived expertise. By emphasizing patient experience in this way, making value propositions clear and working efficiently, the audiology community can thrive.”

- Aaron C. Jones, Director of In-Clinic Success at Unitron


To hear from the leaders of AAA, ADA and ASHA, read our ​December covery story
To hear from ​AuD student leaders, read our online exclusive ​

Friday, December 1, 2017

​In our December cover storyThe Hearing Journal shared insights from some of audiology's key leaders on the field's transforming landscape. But what do these changes mean to AuD students who will bear the resulting challenges—and opportunities? Let's hear it from AuD student leaders as they look back and look ahead to the future of hearing health care.

“Personally, I think that the OTC hearing aids can bring more awareness of the public to the profession of audiology. Only the devices are sold, which means that the customers will still need services, repairs, and professional advice. These can generally just bring more awareness regarding the well-rounded services that audiologists provide.
 
Once patients have undergone audiologic evaluation, we need to make those patients in need of amplification aware of amplification choices available and OTC will enrich the variety of units our patients can utilize.”
 
-Katie Schramm, President, National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA)
 
“With the recent passage of the OTC Hearing Aid Act, audiologists and students are being challenged to reevaluate their approach, service, and delivery model for patient care. OTC hearing aids will provide students with new opportunities to enhance and grow our profession moving forward. Our specialized training prepares us for a broad spectrum of care beyond dispensing and fitting hearing aids: electrophysiology, vestibular testing, auditory processing, and more.
 
We will look to our professors and universities to assist us with meeting the new challenges posed and opportunities created by OTC devices. Audiology programs should help students grow as leaders and advocates, emphasizing what makes audiology unique. It is up to students, who are the future of the profession, to ensure that audiology remains an integral part of changes to the hearing healthcare landscape moving forward.”
 
-Jennifer Whittaker, President, Student Academy of Audiology (SAA)
 
“As OTC hearing aids penetrate the market, AuD graduates must continue to focus on best practices in delivering individualized care. For some, that care may include a low-cost option such as an OTC device. While we may see an influx of clinicians incorporating these devices into their practices, their presence may also encourage new audiologists to practice to the fullest scope. Unfortunately, simply adding new services will not keep our practices afloat—we need to fight for greater reimbursement for the services that often go unnoticed, including the counseling and rehabilitation that is vital to our patient care. Increased reimbursement will allow more clinicians to affordably offer these services and increase access to specialized care for patients.
 
The introduction of OTC devices has opened new opportunities for research in academia, specifically regarding patient satisfaction and performance. This research could then be incorporated into the curriculum, with students learning how to utilize OTC devices in their future clinics. Focusing on student competency and evidence-based practice in the face of these challenges will keep AuD programs from becoming complacent and should lead to a more practical emphasis in the classroom.”
 
-Jessica Pruett, President, Student Academy of Doctors of Audiology (SADA)​

To hear from the leaders of AAA, ADA and ASHA, read our covery story
To hear from industry representatives, read our online exclusive ​

Thursday, November 9, 2017

By Jeff Davies, AuD, Wendy Stevens, and Sara Coulson           

In 2016 De Montfort University (DMU) Square Mile India initiative was launched to help support Indian communities through the sharing of student and staff skills in a wide range of areas such as healthcare and technology. As part of this, two audiology staff and six students set-up an inaugural audiology outreach clinic in partnership with staff at the Devdaya Diagnostic Centre located in Wankaner, a small rural town in the state of Gujarat. The project had three primary aims, (1) to provide free audiological services to local residents whose access to aural healthcare is otherwise poor, (2) to provide DMU audiology students with a unique cultural and clinical-training experience, (3) to study the spectrum of hearing loss / otological symptoms through the collection of clinical data.

HEARING LOSS IN INDIA 
In India, around 63 million people have a significant auditory impairment [1]. Attempts to combat this have been made by the Indian government with the introduction of the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Deafness (NPPCD) in 2006 [2]. The programme attempted to reduce the burden of hearing loss related diseases through the promotion of public awareness and provision of additional ear care clinics. Despite such efforts, a lack of funding, facilities and manpower continue to restrict the initiative [3]. Varshney (2016), reported that the audiologist to patient population ratio is 1:500, 000, however such healthcare practitioners are often located in urban areas whereas over 70% of India’s population are rurally located [4]. This creates additional geographical restrictions not only when trying to access healthcare, but also when conducting research into hearing loss epidemiology across India.

PREPARATIONS
Prior to departure, countless hours of planning and sourcing of clinical items was undertaken. Fortunately, as a provider of the UK’s largest undergraduate BSc (Hons) Healthcare Science Audiology programme, the university had access to a wide range of audiological diagnostic equipment such as otoscopes, portable ShoeBOX audiometers and Interacoustics TITAN tympanometers for use on the trip. Consumable items such as speculae and waste disposal bins were purchased via the university. Over 1000 digital receiver-in-canal hearing aids were kindly donated by Amplifon and several thousand hearing aid batteries by Rayovac, providing scope for future sustainable clinics to take place. Permission to conduct the audiology outreach clinic was granted by the hospital owner and ethical permission from the Health and Life Sciences Faculty Research Ethics Committee at De Montfort University was also sought prior to the trip. 

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CLINICAL PROCEDURES
Patients aged 5+ were invited for audiological evaluation at the Devdaya Diagnostic Centre. The clinic was advertised in local newspapers and through word of mouth by hospital staff several weeks prior to the clinic. The consultations were triaged into 3 stages for efficiency. Hospital staff assisted in the translation of clinical consultations into Gujarati and illustrative information was also given. Each stage was conducted in a different room in the hospital. Stage 1 comprised of an audiological history and otoscopy. 

Dr. Jeff Davies performing otoscopy on a 6-year-old boy with sight impairment and congenital deafness. 
Stage 2 included a hearing test (pure tone audiometry) and objective middle ear evaluation in a quiet hospital room. ShoeBOX audiometers were chosen specifically for their portability and ability to provide accurate threshold measurements outside of the sound proof booth[5, 6]. In stage 3, monaural hearing aids were fitted to patients deemed clinically suitable. Red flag otological symptoms such as unilateral tinnitus or chronic ear discharge were referred onwards to an ENT consultant who had also volunteered their services. Students led each of the 3 stages of clinical triage under the supervision of clinically experienced university staff; Dr Jeff Davies and Wendy Stevens. Over the full duration of the clinics, students were able to rotate roles, gaining experience in each stage of triage. Written informed consent was obtained from all patients or their legal guardians (for minors) prior to taking part with the understanding that their anonymised clinical data may be used for the purpose of research and teaching. 

FINDINGS
Over a period of two days, 170 patients (aged 6-94 years) were seen; 116 males and 54 females. Most patients who attended were in their 60’s however the clinic also attracted 28 patients under the age of 40. A wide range of otological symptoms and conditions were observed including tinnitus in 70 patients (41%), this was unilateral in 17 patients, perforated ear drums (22%), active ear discharge (15%), occluding wax (12%), otalgia (8%) and a history of noise exposure (5%).  Average hearing threshold configuration showed a bilateral moderate to severe sensorineural hearing loss which was worse in males. Twelve patients had normal or only mild hearing loss. Hearing aids were offered to 97 (57%) patients, 88 of which reported listener benefit and agreed to wear the aids on a daily basis. The remaining 44 patients were not considered suitable for hearing aids. Reasons for which included; active ear discharge, damp perforations, occluding wax or profound levels of deafness outside of the hearing aid’s capable amplification range. A total of 32 new ENT referrals were made, six patients were already under the current management of an ENT consultant and a further 12 had received ENT care in the past. As with many developing countries, awareness and knowledge of unsafe ear care practice such as the traditional use of non-sterile sticks for ear “cleaning” was low amongst patients [7]. Therefore creating better awareness of aural health could help reduce disease burden amongst the local community, a notion which will be taken forward in future visits.

FUTURE ENDEAVORS
Partnership amongst De Montfort University and the Devdaya Diagnostic Centre saw the inaugural launch of an audiology outreach clinic in Wankaner, Gujarat. Whilst there were a number of environmental and technological challenges to overcome, this first trip proved to be successful, with many members of the local community seeking audiological care. Evaluation of the clinical data gave us a better understanding of patient demographics, attitudes towards aural health and general hearing etiology. Since this maiden voyage, a second DMU-led audiology outreach clinic has taken place (September 2017) at the Devdaya Diagnostic Centre. Senior Lecturers, Wendy Stevens and Sara Coulson, lead 6 final year Audiology students, assisted by the local hospital staff. Three students from DMU were able to speak Guajarati which was a great asset to the process. Whilst the clinical data is currently being analysed by one of the students as part of her final year project, results so far suggest that approximately 250 people (aged 5-85 years) were screened and around 90 hearing aids were fitted. The Square Mile India Free Hearing Screening Project provides invaluable ‘one time’ learning experience for students, allowing them not only to practice their clinical skills in a challenging environment but also expand their cultural awareness, knowledge of humanitarian health care delivery and to work as part of an international multi-disciplinary team. It is expected that this project will continue to take place on an annual basis for at least the next three years.                                                                                                           

Thursday, November 9, 2017

 By Kristen Van Dyke
 
A sound investment for our children. This is the guiding principle of the Foundation for Hearing and Speech Rehabilitation (FHSR), a Chicago-based private, nonprofit grassroots organization dedicated to improving the quality of life of children with hearing disorders. Through funding of innovative programming, FHSR operates under the mission that children who are deaf/hard of hearing can participate in all aspects of life. From education to equipment support to social interactions, the goal of the foundation is for these children to be on par with their hearing peers. 
 
“We strive to fund programs that will work to place children having deafness/ hearing loss on a leveled playing field with their hearing peers.  It is the fundamental reason why we exist and what drives us as an organization,” said Ellen Babbitt, FHSR Board of Directors Co-Chair. Ellen first joined the Board of Directors in 2009 as a parent whose daughter was born deaf and received cochlear implants and benefitted from the very programs she works to fund today. 
 
Since its founding in 1958, the organization has become an indispensable voice and source of services in the Midwest region for parents and professionals seeking help for children who are marginalized with hearing loss. Early intervention, research, medical attention, literacy, educational and support services are critical needs that FHSR has supported for almost 60 years.
 
A LEGACY OF COLLABORATION
 
Creating an impact in each decade since its founding, FSHR has funded projects as diverse as the building of an audiology clinic where none existed, innovative audiology- based research, and educational support for children with cochlear implants. In the ‘90s FHSR supported critical medical research (e.g., Dr. Nina Krause). The organization provided seed funding to establish her laboratory at Northwestern University and her auditory research. Dr. Krause is now one of the top researchers in the world in auditory related issues.
 
“As an organization, a community, and a society, we have made great strides in helping children with hearing loss lead healthy and productive lives.  My mother would be proud of how far we have come since she founded the organization and started lip reading classes held in our basement at home. This progress motivates me to continue supporting children and their families in new and creative ways,” said Patricia Livingston, FHSR Board of Directors since 1961, whose mother Dorothy Meyer was a founding member of the Foundation.   
 
In the early 2000’s FHSR partnered with Dr. Nancy Young, Head of Section Otology/Neurotology and Medical Director, Audiology & Cochlear Implant Program at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and directly funds crucial support positions including the Hart Family Cochlear Implant Education Coordinator, the Audiology Hearing Aid Technician, the Loaner Hearing Aid Bank, and Bilingual Social Workers. These programs create a wrap around for both the patient and their families enabling a high level of scaffolding and support for recently identified children. This involvement ultimately promotes high outcomes in both education and social emotional benchmarks. The Hart Family Education Coordinator, named after Louise Hart a founding Director, is a unique position that works with both the child’s family and the school districts throughout Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin. Charged with helping the parents make the best education choice for their child, the coordinator works tirelessly to make sure the children receive the services and classroom placements that will be most beneficial to further their education. 
 
FAMILY CONCERT SERIES
 
Staying true to their mission that children who are deaf and hard of hearing can enjoy the same opportunities as their peers, and lead healthy and fulfilling lives, FHSR established its free family concert series, Cheers for Ears.  Started in 2011, this concert allows children to come together to celebrate the power of hearing and music. The series features diverse performances by artists such as Joel Frankel - a singer, songwriter, and children’s entertainer; Fulcrum Point New Music Project, and Rhythm Revolution Drumming Circles.  Children laugh and rejoice to the sound and rhythm of music as they participate in an event that was previously unimaginable. 
 
Recently, FHSR partnered with the Chicago Hearing Society through the READ Literacy program which tackles the critical issue of early exposure to books and reading for deaf/ hard of hearing children. Meeting literacy benchmarks is key to the successful outcomes of these children.  The READ program aligns with the Foundation’s goal of education as a powerful tool for future achievements.  In October 2016, the READ Literacy Program was expanded to support deaf and hard of hearing children in Central and Southern Illinois, an area of the state that lacks access to services.  In this program, children receive two books and a book-bag and deaf guests are invited to read books to the children to reflect the power of learning to reading.
 
“The Foundation is 60 years young. As we move into the next 60 years, we are pleased to be creating a music scholarship program, Music to My Ears, giving deaf/hard of hearing children an opportunity to participate in care giver/ child music appreciation classes," said Kristen Van Dyke, FHSR executive director and a proud parent of a son with bilateral cochlear implants. In addition, we are always actively seeking new programming possibilities that will assist low-income families having children with hearing loss.  As we continue to partner with leaders throughout the Chicagoland area and Midwest, including Columbia University, University of Chicago and University of Iowa; Merit School of Music and Old Town School of Folk Music, we strive to find and fund best practices that will propel children with hearing loss to go beyond predicted outcomes.”

Thursday, November 9, 2017

By Rachel Fryatt, MA

Students in audiology graduate programs across the country continually express interest in humanitarian missions, where they can help others who would not otherwise have access to hearing healthcare. Both national organizations and school-planned projects have become more common in AuD programs, and students have more opportunities than ever to apply what they learn in the classroom to real-life patients in a humanitarian mission. There are opportunities available for students to provide hearing health care services to underserved populations and to learn core competencies, all in their own backyard.

The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship provides a unique opportunity for graduate students to develop leadership skills in their community, and to showcase these skills in creating a community-based program. Named after physician and humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, the fellowship aims to improve community health, expand educational opportunities, and create a systematic change in health care services.

AuD students at the University of Pittsburgh have successfully implemented audiology services through the fellowship, delivering diagnostic assessment, treatment, counseling services, and hearing aid fittings at no cost to the patient. The project, Hearing Education and Resources for Underserved Populations (HEAR-UP), is a sustainable, once-a-month service that adequately reaches individuals who cannot typically access or afford hearing health care but need adequate communication to perform daily functions and fulfil bsic including safety. The program provides an educational atmosphere for students to take what they learn in the lab and apply it to real-life clinical services.
 
THE ALBERT SCHWEITZER FELLOWSHIP

The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship is an experiential learning program that develops leaders in service, with chapters in 13 cities around the country and continuing to grow. Fellows hail from a diverse selection of graduate programs, yet share a common interest in public service and creating positive change. Over the course of a year, students learn what it takes to create a sustainable service in an existing site, develop educational materials, and collaborate with past and present fellows on the topics of disparity, leadership, and engagement. After completing the fellowship, they join a Fellows-for-Life alumni network of health professionals who are committed to improving the lives of underserved persons.

Projects can touch upon any unmet need, whether it is related to the student’s interest of study or something close to their heart. “I believe we get the best and the brightest [students],” said Joan Haley, MEd, executive director of the Pittsburgh Schweitzer Fellows Program. “They know a lot about their specialties, and the people in their projects are lucky to have these outstanding emerging professionals as role models.” Audiology fits wonderfully into this equation, as students learning professional skills are eager to apply what they learn, have the time and ability to take on such a project, and have the initiative to create a positive change in the community.
            
AUDIOLOGY SERVICES IN LOCAL FREE CLINICS

The high cost of hearing devices leaves underserved populations particularly vulnerable. In addition to lack of affordability, there are few options for audiologic treatment. While students and professionals alike volunteer their time for hearing screenings, there are few to no options for these patients in terms of intervention. The Schweitzer Fellowship can be utilized to bridge that gap between underserved populations and accessibility to affordable hearing health care.

At the Birmingham Free Clinic in the Southside neighborhood of Pittsburgh, a Schweitzer fellow performs services once a month under the supervision of a licensed audiologist. Materials are transported on the day of service and are restocked between appointment dates. The clinical opportunity from this site has also expanded to an educational tool, as students learn more about the needs of the population of interest. “It transcends audiology into health care issues, accessibility, and the impact of hearing loss and communication challenges on basic human needs,” said Catherine Palmer, PhD, director of the Doctor of Audiology program at the University of Pittsburgh.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UMPC) Center for Audiology and Hearing Aids, under the direction of Dr. Palmer, has committed expertise and organizational support in the implementation of this service. A UPMC audiologist covers the free clinic service and also serves as a preceptor for the audiology student in the fellowship. The UPMC Eye and Ear Foundation provides financial support to purchase diagnostic equipment, hearing aids, and additional supplies. The audiology clinical coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh engages students in these clinics, making the service a sustainable resource for both patients and students.
 
SUSTAINABILITY

The University of Pittsburgh AuD program supports the Schweitzer fellows in their endeavors to expand audiology access within the community. With the commitment of long-term support from both the university and the medical center, audiology services at these free clinics will remain available as an exceptional educational opportunity for AuD students.

While student involvement in the Schweitzer Fellowship is not necessarily required for the implementation of services at a free clinic, it has become a unique collaboration. Fellows can think more critically about the challenges faced by underserved persons. “From a clinical perspective the program allows our students to accrue experiences across a more diverse group of patients than would otherwise be available,” shared Elaine Mormer, PhD, clinical education coordinator for the AuD program. There has been positive reception from the faculty mentors as well. “It also provides a structure in which to pursue new programs and holds the entire group accountable which I think helped us make sure we were creating something sustainable for not only the patient population we serve but the students we are educating,” said Palmer.

Any outreach to underserved population to increase accessibility to affordable hearing health care is a worthwhile endeavor, but students don’t have to buy a plane ticket to reach these patient populations.  Through the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, AuD students have the chance to serve right in their own communities.

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Author Information: 
Ms. Fryatt is a third-year AuD student at the University of Pittsburgh.