Hear Here Alabama

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From the August 2015 Desktop News | “Can you hear me now?” OK, that may not be exactly what Dr. Marcia Hay-McCutcheon asks patients as part of the new Hear Here Alabama project in the College of Arts and Sciences, but it’s pretty close.

Hay-McCutcheon, an associate professor in the Department of Communicative Disorders, will lead the project as she drives a mobile hearing center—a large, motorcoach-like vehicle—into areas of West Alabama to test patients’ hearing, at no cost to the patients.

The Hear Here Alabama vehicle is large enough to incorporate a space for physical examinations of the ear, as well as two sound booths to test hearing.

The outreach program will help an underserved segment of Alabama’s population.

“In Alabama, approximately 22 percent of the population is 55 years old or older, and, additionally, according to the 2014 Alabama Poverty Data Sheet, Alabama is the nation’s seventh poorest state,” Hay-McCutcheon said. “A large percentage of Alabamians are estimated to have an undiagnosed hearing loss and/or no resources to address the hearing loss.”

Hear Here Alabama’s mission is to diagnose hearing loss in Alabama and provide essential hearing health care services using a mobile unit equipped with the necessary testing equipment and remediation resources.

The program is designed to bring hearing care to area residents who can’t easily travel.

“Our goals are to identify hearing loss of adults living in Alabama, particularly in rural or underserved areas in Alabama, to identify the impact of hearing loss on the general physical and emotional health of Alabamans, and to provide effective and appropriate intervention to all Alabamans with hearing loss,” Hay-McCutcheon said.

To begin, the team will first try to figure out the extent of hearing loss of people in West Alabama.

“Then we want to find out how this associates with physical and emotional issues and provide an appropriate response,” she said.

The Department of Communicative Disorders will partner with UA’s College of Community Health Sciences in order to help area residents with treatment.

They will conduct hearing screenings initially in rural Marengo, Dallas and Wilcox counties. As the project expands, Hay-McCutcheon expects to move into more West Alabama counties and eventually into counties all across the state.