Helping the community hear

When Ashtabula Speech and Hearing Center abruptly closed in 2014, the community quickly saw the effects of the lack of services available. That’s when Ashtabula County Community Action Agency sprang into action in an effort to bring back a much-needed service.

ACCAA opened the doors of the refurbished Audiology, Speech and Hearing Center, now a program of Community Action, in February 2015. Last year, the center served 1,678 people with diagnostic hearing tests, screenings, aid fittings and repairs, assistive listening devices, speech therapy, and much more.

Six-year-old *Garrett was one of those individuals who benefited from access to the local audiology services after he was diagnosed with a recently discovered hearing loss. After several ear infections and other complications, Garrett had significant hearing challenges that affected his daily life and development. Even though the hearing challenges were now known to the family, there stood many other challenges for the young boy to overcome—including the fitting process.

During the hearing aid fitting process, Cindy Lanning, Audiologist, has to use a 5” probe to place a block and capture a mold of the patient’s ear. “Before each fitting, I show the patient what will happen. It’s still intimidating,” Lanning said. The first time Garrett was in for an appointment, his anxiety overcame him and he became very upset. “I was concerned for his safety and mine,” Lanning recalled.

The next steps came a little easier, and when Garrett received his new device, Lanning and Garrett’s parents quickly saw the reward. “How will we know if it is working?” Lanning recalled Garrett’s mother asking.

“Just look at his face!” Lanning told her. That was when Garrett responded.

“I can hear you just fine, Mom. Stop yelling!” Garrett said with an ear-to-ear smile, his eyes wide open, and his face lit up with excitement.

ACCAA used corporate funds raised to refurbish and reopen the center. The agency also retained agreements with local schools to complete required hearing screenings, and they are able to bill Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance to maintain operations. In addition to providing the services and devices for patients that are covered by insurance, ACCAA understands the challenges children have with hearing devices. It is sometimes difficult for children to keep track of them—some removed them because it is hard to wear something different from their peers. Because of that, ACCAA provides the color choices and clips free of charge to families. Garrett chose green and blue for his hearing aid—his favorite colors—and has so far had no issues with wearing or keeping track of the device.

“This is why we do what we do,” said Lanning, who has been an Audiologist for nearly 20 years. The center also provides Ohio Health Screenings in an effort to diagnose hearing conditions early in a child’s life to provide the necessary services quickly.

To find out more about ACCAA’s program, visit their website.

*Name(s) changed to maintain client confidentiality