The Hear Here Alabama project is a rural hearing health initiative designed to bring hearing services to people living in audiologically underserved areas of Alabama. Being able to hear is so important for human interaction and communication. When we have difficulty hearing we have difficulty communicating. This initiative is possible only through the generous support of the College of Arts and Sciences, Research and Economic Development, Academic Affairs, and the Center for Economic Development.
“Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people”
– Helen Keller
The Hear Here Alabama project was first conceived in the fall of 2013 after Marcia Hay-McCutcheon realized that she was spinning her wheels trying to get study participants for her cochlear implant research. She started to wonder why there weren’t more people in the West Central Alabama area with cochlear implants and began to consider that maybe people with hearing loss weren’t being identified because they had no access to hearing health care.
The preliminary project began in the Spring of 2014 after a CARSCA grant from the College of Arts and Sciences was awarded to Marcia Hay-McCutcheon. Data from over 300 people living in urban and rural areas of West Central Alabama were collected at the Speech and Hearing Center and at Public Health Departments in Pickens, Greene, Fayette, and Bibb counties. A lot was learned about collecting data in rural areas of Alabama and we realized that if we were to successfully build this project we needed to take our clinical skills and research projects to residents living in rural areas. To do that though we needed a mobile audiology clinic.
Dean Bob Olin was an early supporter of the project and was able to convince other administrators that this endeavor was worth funding. He successfully garnered financial support from Dr. Joe Benson, Provost, in Academic Affairs and Dr. Carl Pinkert, the VP for Research. So, after all of the funding was in place the Hear Here Alabama mobile audiology clinic was commissioned from Lifeline Mobile in Columbus, OH. She arrived at the Department of Communicative Disorders on June 4, 2015. The project is also deeply grateful for the funding from Nisa Miranda, the Director for the Center for Economic Development, which has been essential for the continuation of the project.
Since her arrival, Dottie, as she is affectionately known, has been busy visiting counties to the south of Tuscaloosa providing hearing screenings and evaluations to anyone who comes through her doors.