Audiology Students to Spend Spring Break in Remote Area of Appalachia Providing Hearing Healthcare

A dozen students and several faculty members from the USF Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) program will forgo the traditional sun and fun of Spring Break for a more worthwhile cause, fitting hearing aids for individuals in Kentucky's remote area of Appalachia – home to three of the poorest counties in the United States. The students are raising their own funds for the trip, and to date have raised over $3000. Most of the funds will be used for travel expenses, but students also plan to make a donation to help with providing hearing aids and services to those in need.

During March 8 - 10, the USF team is partnering with the Hear the World Foundation and the Red Bird Mission. Last year, as part of their involvement in the Student Academy of Audiology, several USF students – including trip organizer Lauren Tolbert – attended an audiology convention in Dallas, TX. They participated in a humanitarian session where they heard about the special partnership of Hear the World Foundation and Red Bird Mission.

Hear the World Foundation was created to raise awareness about hearing loss and to offer advanced hearing technology to underdeveloped countries. Established by Phonak, a company specializing in the development and manufacturing of high-tech hearing devices, they have partnered with the Red Bird Mission, a rural health care clinic in southeastern Kentucky that since 1921, has worked to meet the health care needs of area patients faced with chronic poverty, poor housing, and difficult travel due to the rugged mountainous terrain.

Audiologists and students from around the country travel across the mountains to provide screening and hearing devices for the residents, many who have lost touch with friends and family due to their hearing loss.

"We really liked this mission because you don't just go up and hand out hearing aids to people. There is follow up, which is such a necessity, as well as other services provided," said Tolbert.

Faculty and students taking part in the mission trip include (from left to right): Julia Hartman, Dr. Lisa Hansel, Theresa Shipman, Lauren Tolbert, Emily Cardenas, Dr. Pat Carr and Heather Hoefer.

The USF volunteers will provide services based on skill range. They will screen children, provide first fittings to 150 individuals, provide maintenance for individuals previously fitted, as well as set up Frequency Modulated (FM) systems in local churches.

"When I first learned of the student's plan last May, I was extremely impressed that they took the initiative to seek out this opportunity," said faculty member Lisa Hansel. "They have worked hard to raise funds to cover their expenses and a donation to cover additional supplies and follow-up care. I am very proud of these students and look forward to working next to them during their Spring Break."

The Au.D. program at USF is housed within the College of Behavioral & Community Sciences' Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders. The post-bachelors, residential program requires a minimum of 120 semester hours over a period of four years. Three stages of clinical experience are completed during the first three years of the program. During year 1, students complete clinical laboratory coursework. During year 2, students complete clinical experiences within the USF Audiology Clinic. During year 3 they complete clerkships at a variety of clinical sites in the greater Tampa Bay area, including Veteran's Affair's hospitals, children's hospitals and speech and hearing clinics. The fourth year of the AuD program is devoted to a full-time clinical externship. In addition to coursework and clinical experiences, each student completes a professional research project during their third year in the program.

To learn about supporting the trip to Kentucky or the Au.D. program, contact Lisa Hansel at 813-974-9828.

Established in 2008, the University of South Florida's College of Behavioral & Community Sciences (BCS) re-aligned existing schools and departments in related disciplines to achieve the University of South Florida’s strategic goals for becoming a top research university with local to global impact. BCS provides intensive, practical, state-of-the-art and rigorous educational experiences for students. Graduates are well prepared to enter diverse behavioral, health and social care sectors, thus providing the highest quality of community services possible. BCS focuses on developing and implementing innovative solutions to the complex conditions and behaviors that affect the well-being of people and their communities.