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University partnership offers free hearing health care for uninsured adults

The Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing (ACDHH) is partnering with University of Arizona on the Hearing Healthcare Assistance Project, which provides free hearing health care for eligible people ages 21 and older who lack insurance.

The project began at Arizona State University in 2021 and expanded to Northern Arizona University in 2023.

Research links hearing loss with isolation, depression and cognitive decline, as well as stress and increased risks of accidents and falls.

But people without insurance often cannot afford hearing aids, which can cost thousands of dollars.

Michelle Michaels, who manages the program for ACDHH, says it's not just about the hearing aid, but about the diagnosis, counseling, education and follow-up care U A will provide.

“We're not the only project or program that exists, but we are the only one who is looking at the whole person and not just the ear,” she said.

Amy Wheeler of the UA Speech Language and Hearing Sciences Department, who led the effort to bring the project to UA, echoed the need to look beyond the technology.

“It’s not the device alone that leads them to success, and I think a lot of patients maybe thinking that just the one device is enough has led them to a frustrating place,” she said.

The UA clinic offers support from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Patients meet with a student primary provider and an audiologist professor, who there for support.

Interested parties should contact the ACDHH at 602-542-3323 (videophone: 480-559-9441) or visit their website, acdhh.org.

“We will ask them some questions and see which program or project that exists here in Arizona or nationwide might be best to help them,” said Michaels.

The ACDHH is a state commission established in 1977 to improve the quality of life for deaf and hard of hearing residents and serves as the statewide bureau of information and referral for those groups.

Nicholas Gerbis joined KJZZ’s Arizona Science Desk in 2016. A longtime science, health and technology journalist and editor, his extensive background in related nonprofit and science communications inform his reporting on Earth and space sciences, neuroscience and behavioral health, and bioscience/biotechnology.Apart from travel and three years in Delaware spent earning his master’s degree in physical geography (climatology), Gerbis has spent most of his life in Arizona. He also holds a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Arizona State University’s Cronkite School and a bachelor’s degree in geography (climatology/meteorology), also from ASU.Gerbis briefly “retired in reverse” and moved from Arizona to Wisconsin, where he taught science history and science-fiction film courses at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He is glad to be back in the Valley and enjoys contributing to KJZZ’s Untold Arizona series.During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gerbis focused almost solely on coronavirus-related stories and analysis. In addition to reporting on the course of the disease and related research, he delved into deeper questions, such as the impact of shutdowns on science and medicine, the roots of vaccine reluctance and the policies that exacerbated the virus’s impact, particularly on vulnerable populations.