FAIRFIELD—The Sacred Heart University Audiology Clinic has opened its doors to the Bridgeport community and invites area residents to make an appointment to get their hearing loss diagnosed and treated.
The full-service clinic delivers hearing health care for individuals across the lifespan, while providing SHU speech-language pathology students with the opportunity to accrue required clinical hours in audiology and aural rehabilitation under the supervision of a licensed audiologist.
An audiologist is a professional who specializes in the diagnosis, evaluation and treatment of hearing and balance disorders. Audiologists treat infants, children and adults for various hearing impairments. They work in diverse settings like hospitals, schools, clinics, universities, private practices, Veterans Administration hospitals, hearing aid dispensaries and otolaryngology offices.
The audiology clinic is inside SHU’s Center for Healthcare Education, 4000 Park Ave., Bridgeport. It provides hearing testing and diagnostic audiology and dispenses hearing devices and services. The clinic also offers educational workshops to help people improve daily living and overall quality of life. It aims to provide inter-professional opportunities for other SHU health profession students to observe and learn about diagnosis and treatment for people with hearing loss.
Hearing loss is a progressive condition that worsens over time. Symptoms appear so gradually that the individual may be unaware of the condition for some time. Even when hearing loss is suspected, a person takes an average of seven years to seek medical treatment. The third most commonly reported physical condition, following arthritis and heart disease, hearing loss affects roughly 20 percent of the U.S. population.
Professor Jamie Marotto, Au.D., CCC-A, a licensed audiologist in Connecticut, heads the clinic, under the auspices of the University’s Speech-Language Pathology Department. Marotto earned a doctorate in audiology from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and a bachelor’s degree in communication disorders and Spanish from the University of Connecticut.
Marotto describes hearing loss as “an invisible disability” that often goes unnoticed as it progressively worsens. Affected individuals might bluff their way along until the loss becomes more severe and puts them at increased risk of other health issues such as cognitive decline and falling.
“People need to understand it’s not just something that happens as they as they get older; they can do something about it,” Marotto said. “It’s neat to have the audiology clinic in the center of SHU health care education. We really are able to teach students about hearing and the implications for overall quality of life. Hearing plays a big role in how to treat patients, no matter their disability.”
Hearing aids are more powerful than ever
Hearing aids are much more effective today than in the past, because they amplify the things the user needs to hear and not all the background noise, according to Professor Rhea Paul, chair of SHU’s Speech-Language Pathology Department. Paul, a former professor at Yale Child Study Center, Southern Connecticut State University and Portland State University, earned a doctorate in communication disorders in 1981 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“People sometimes buy hearing aids but have difficulty getting them to work properly. Our students will help people use their hearing aids to maximum potential, adjusting to their particular needs, and assist with their care and maintenance,” Paul said.
People who might have tried hearing aids in the past and not found them effective might want to consider trying them again, Paul said. “Most people don’t get very much counseling or training, which our students can provide. The important thing to remember is hearing loss isolates people and is one of the high risks for other conditions that are deleterious to their health.”
Today’s digital devices are smaller and more powerful than ever, and include many features designed to improve comfort, convenience and clarity. They are available in various sizes and styles, so finding one that appeals to a person’s lifestyle needs and cosmetic preferences should be easy.
Since Sacred Heart is a nonprofit university, the audiology clinic staff can serve people with less of an obligation to generate a profit than private providers have, Paul said. The clinic has the advantage of providing students with the experience of working with people who are learning to use their hearing aids at a lower cost, not full market cost. “We have the opportunity to serve clients who might be underserved by other providers,” she said.
“Hearing loss is a lot more visible than wearing hearing aids might be,” Marotto said. “Spending a couple thousand dollars might make the difference between being able to hear and social withdrawal.”
The audiology clinic accepts insurance plans such as Medicaid, Medicare and other private plans. Typically, most insurance companies will cover the cost of the hearing examination. Coverage for hearing aids is more variable; Medicare will not pay for hearing aids while Medicaid will typically cover the cost of two hearing aids. Some private insurance plans offer a benefit towards the purchase of hearing aids.
The clinic also accepts donated hearing aids, with the aim of giving back to the local community. “Previously, we have fitted donated hearing aids through the Oticon Hearing Foundation to children and adults in Guatemala,” Marotto said.
The Speech-Language-Pathology (SLP) program at Sacred Heart University offers an annual service-learning program that travels to Antigua and the Greater Panchoy Valley in Guatemala where SLP, occupational therapy and physical therapy students actively collaborate on an inter-professional team. Specifically, SLP provides hearing-related services and hearing aid fittings to children and adults in need. The inter-professional team will return to Guatemala in the fall.
To make an appointment or find out more about the clinic, call 203.396.6895 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTO CAPTION: Professor Jamie Marotto, right, works with a patient in the audiology clinic at Sacred Heart University’s Center for Healthcare Education. Photo by Sean Kaschak