Jon Douglas and Amy Hartman, clinical faculty in audiology, in conjunction with alumna ElizabethSeeliger (BSE’97, Au.D.’09) from Wisconsin Sound Beginnings and the MCH LEND pediatric audiology training program, have established out-of-hospital clinics for the Amish and Mennonite populations in rural Wisconsin.
These ”plain clothes” communities of Wisconsin have limited access to mainstream health care. Often, their children are born at home with a midwife, who may or may not provide a newborn hearing screening. If a child is born with an unidentified hearing loss, his or her speech, language, and social development may be negatively impacted. To serve the people of Wisconsin better, and, in doing so, contribute to the Wisconsin Idea, Douglas, Hartman and Seeliger developed the “Plain Clothes Hearing Clinic” in 2010.
Midwives throughout the state have opened their homes to the audiology team for the clinics. The team, consisting of audiology clinical faculty and students, travels to the midwife’s home, often driving six hours in a day. The clinics are open to both adults and children, with a focus on providing newborn hearing screenings. The goal is to provide hearing screenings, hearing evaluations, hearing aid services, and resources for families who would not otherwise have access to hearing healthcare.
Since 2010 there have been seven clinics and the team has seen a total of 162 children and 28 adults. Four additional clinics are planned over the next academic year. In addition to providing hearing services, Au.D. students are also developing a survey to understand attitudes in the “plain clothes” community concerning hearing health care. The survey is designed to identify the best way to implement further health care initiatives within this unique population.