Pacific Hearing Connection was founded in 2016 by Dr. Deborah Clark and Dr. Jane Baxter. For years, Debbie and Jane met people in their private practice who could not afford hearing aids but did not qualify for programs such as Medi-Cal (and those with Medi-Cal often received only limited benefits.) They also saw a huge need for those who have no insurance or are under-insured. It frustrated them to learn many were forced to purchase inexpensive hearing devices without the proper testing, fitting, and follow-up care.
In 2013 Jane and Debbie became involved with Entheos Audiology Cooperative, an organization that, among other things, plans global audiology humanitarian trips and supports private practices in their efforts to help the under-served at home. Involvement in this organization became the catalyst to helping Dr. Baxter and Dr. Clark realize their goal to extend hearing healthcare locally to those in need through the creation of a non-profit entity, Pacific Hearing Connection.
Hearing Loss in the United States
It is estimated there are 37.5 million people in the United States with hearing loss, approximately 15% of the population. The World Health Organization estimates there are 360 million people worldwide with significant hearing loss. In many countries, including the United States, access to hearing health care by the use of hearing aids is expensive and not covered by most insurance plans or government programs. In many cases of low-income adults and children, the hearing loss goes untreated.
The National Council on Aging reported that untreated hearing loss leads to negative effects in people’s lives compared to those who have their hearing loss treated. In adults, the negative effects reported are sadness and depression, worry and anxiety, less social activity, paranoia and emotional insecurity. The Better Hearing Institute reported in 2007 that hearing loss has an adverse effect on income. Most recently, the association between early cognitive decline and untreated hearing loss has been well documented.
In children, untreated hearing loss causes delays in speech and language development communication and leaning, which leads to academic achievement suffering as a result. These communication difficulties can also lead to social isolation, poor self-concept, and limited vocational choices. The earlier the hearing loss is treated, the less the impact of these delays.
Cost of Living in the Bay Area
The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the most expensive places in the country to live. As an example, a cost of living index for Santa Clara, CA is 75% higher than that for the entire country. Palo Alto, CA is 122% higher than the national average. Redwood City is 93% higher. Even East Palo Alto, an area considered by many to be more affordable, is 43% higher that the rest of the country. Given the exceptionally high cost of living in this area, people whose income level would be considered modest in other parts of the country struggle financially in the Bay Area.
The ability to hear should not be a privilege; it should be a given. An adult who has access to proper hearing healthcare, regardless of resources, will become or continue to be a contributing member of any society or culture. A child or infant who has proper access to hearing healthcare will be afforded the opportunity to acquire communication skills essential to attending school and becoming a contributing member of society.
It is the mission, duty, and purpose of Pacific Hearing Connection to address, educate, coordinate, and provide hearing healthcare to under-served and under-insured community on a local level. Our goal is to provide these services and give the Gift of Hearing to this population with dignity and respect.