WEST ALLIS — Wisconsin now has a new tool to identify and work to correct hearing loss. It’s a problem more prevalent than some might think, and HEAR Wisconsin’s new Mobile Audiology Clinic (MAC) is ready to play a key role in expanding access to hearing healthcare.
The nonprofit cut the ribbon on the rolling facility at its West Allis headquarters after a fundraising effort that tapped individual donations, local foundations, and a sponsorship from Acuity Insurance.
“We want everyone to have access to quality hearing healthcare,” proclaimed HEAR Wisconsin President & CEO Jill Van Calster moments before cutting the ribbon on the MAC.
HEAR Wisconsin reports hearing loss affects as many as half a million people in the state. Having a clinic on wheels will help cross multiple hurdles in diagnosing and treating hearing-related problems.
“There's a lot of older adults who can't necessarily come here. They've got mobility issues. They don't drive. They don't have reliable transportation,” explained Dr. Meredith Klinker, an audiologist with HEAR Wisconsin. “So going to places like retirement communities, senior housing, around this area. But also going elsewhere in the state where people don't have access to those services. More rural areas, way up north in Wisconsin, or even not so far up north. There are people that don't have access to those services easily.”
Kara Grennier, Director of Residential Services at Milwaukee Catholic Home, has already booked a visit from the MAC.
“Especially with the pandemic,” she said, “our residents have not been able to get out into the community. So this has been wonderful to really invite them into our community to come and see our residents where they live.”
She knows how important hearing health is and how challenging it can be to take a step toward correcting problems. Grennier herself, only recently, was diagnosed with hearing loss.
“I was a little bit embarrassed,” she admitted. “With the pandemic, having to wear a mask at work really made it much more challenging and really emotionally draining to try to hear people, my co-workers, other residents, and I knew I needed to do something.”
The MAC allows audiologists to conduct 18 screenings an hour. The services will be free for non-profits, community events, schools, and senior centers. Hear Wisconsin will also offer fee-based screenings to companies where OSHA mandates hearing tests. That revenue will help sustain the program.
HEAR Wisconsin can also help with hearing aids, which Dr. Klinker says are not what they used to be. “Hearing aids aren’t a scary thing. They’re not the older style that people think of. Technology has come really far.”
If you’re interested in scheduling a screening, or a visit from the MAC, you can check out all the services from HEAR Wisconsin.