There are many motivators when it comes to what drives us in our careers. One passion my parents instilled in me at a young age is using my gifts of time, talent, and treasure to give back. My father was a railroad worker for 48 years and put me and my four siblings—and several other children, we later found out—through Catholic school until 8th grade. My mother, who was a teacher by education but a giver by heart, ran the St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen and the Giving Closet, among others, and encouraged us to work each Thanksgiving at the local food bank.
When I became an audiologist, I maintained the same passion and desire to serve my community, but I was lost for years on how to do this within the structure of private practice. I felt like I was a tiny fish in a vast ocean. But in 2015, I connected with Entheos Audiology Cooperative and learned of their mission statement: “We think hearing health care is the perfect vehicle to change lives, local communities, and the world. Through values like servant leadership, positive objectivity, and community, we believe you can reach your full potential in your practice and life.” This resonated with me on a fundamental level. With Entheos, I joined international hearing humanitarian initiatives and connected with practice owners across the country who established nonprofits to help their own communities. Under the guidance of Nora Stewart, the founder of Entheos and the nonprofit GiveHear, and the experience shared by those who went through the same journey, the Grace Hearing Center was born in August 2016.
CIRCLE OF GIVING MODEL
Grace Hearing Center operates on a reduced fee and sliding-scale basis to offer affordable hearing services. We also run a hospice program to create a better atmosphere, easy communication, and good end-of-life memories. Our programs are sustained through grants, donations, corporate sponsorships, and volunteers. In return, our unique “circle of giving” model gives our patients the opportunity to give back to the community. For every hearing aid that patients receive at the Center, they commit volunteer hours to their community.
The Center's first patient embodied the exact population that we wanted to target. Glen was 29 years old and unemployed when he first came to the Center. He had severe hearing impairment, used the same hearing aids since high school, and had the same ear molds for the past 10 years. He could not afford repairs on his nonfunctioning devices. At the Center, we fitted him with upgraded, though reconditioned, hearing aids and set him up to volunteer at the Habitat for Humanity Habistore. With this new work experience, Glen found full-time employment and is now engaged to be married.
The Center also started other initiatives, like the hospice program where we provide hearing tests and hearing aid demonstrations and give pocket talkers or hearing aids to help patients face the final phase of life with dignity and the gift of hearing.
With our Central Auditory Process Testing Program, we conduct testing and reporting of central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) for a flat fee. This service was much-needed in our community in Tucson, AZ. Due to the lack of insurance reimbursement and the heavy cost per hour in most for-profit offices, we have just started this program and will evaluate its effectiveness after six months.
Finally, last October 2017, we partnered with El Rio Healthcare, the largest nonprofit health clinic in Tucson, and conducted hearing screenings at one of their locations. El Rio is known for providing comprehensive health care and having a hallmark diabetes education center, which serves as the perfect place to educate patients about the link between diabetes and the auditory system. We are currently working with El Rio for grants to expand and conduct full audiometric testing and fitting of hearing aids on their campus.
The Grace Hearing Center is also supported by several private grants as well as my two for-profit practices. Looking ahead, we're finding ways to make things work on each side of the spectrum, in both the for-profit and non-profit worlds.