Organizers of a new mobile unit say they want to increase access to ear care and hearing screenings by breaking down financial and transportation barriers.
The Mobile Audiology Clinic from HEAR Wisconsin, a nonprofit based in West Allis dedicated to preventing hearing loss and offering deafness resources, is a 36-foot-long bus capable of performing hearing tests for about 18 people an hour. Visitors can also receive assistance in getting such resources as hearing aids. The mobile clinic began in July.
“One of the disparities that we’re finding in the audiology industry is that fewer and fewer audiologists and clinics are able to afford taking Medicaid,” said Mark Stein, director of strategic initiatives with HEAR Wisconsin.
Hearing screening, especially for young children, can be crucial. Many hearing conditions are preventable from a young age, Stein said, making early intervention important.
Travis Landry, vice president of operations at WestCare Wisconsin, the local chapter of a national organization that provides health and human services to communities, was one of the organizers of the Harambee Health Fair, which took place on Aug. 21. He said residents in Harambee have identified vision and hearing as top concerns.
“One of our biggest goals was making sure the kids can hear and see,” Landry said.
Landry said one of the biggest barriers for people getting hearing screenings is a lack of insurance.
Disparities exist in hearing care. A study in the National Library of Medicine in 2018 found that infant hearing loss was more prevalent in low-income urban neighborhoods than in surrounding wealthier areas.
Wisconsin also is one of few states that do not require hearing screening at schools, although Milwaukee Public Schools offers the testing.
Regardless of ability to pay, visitors can receive resources they need at the mobile clinic, said Jill Van Calster, president and CEO of HEAR Wisconsin.
“It is literally a state-of-the-art audiology clinic,” Van Calster said. “I mean, there is nothing that we do here in our West Allis facility that we can’t do on the mobile clinic.”
Catch the clinic at Mexican Fiesta
The mobile clinic will be at Mexican Fiesta on the Summerfest grounds, 200 N. Harbor Drive, from Friday, Aug. 27 to Sunday, Aug. 29. The clinic will be at the festival from noon to 6 p.m. each day.