Inspired to Give: Humanitarian Audiology in Practice

Forward by: Stephanie Czuhajewski, MPH, CAE

Many ADA members were inspired by the presentation delivered by Dr. Jane Baxter and Dr. Deborah Clark at AuDacity 2020, in which they shared their passion for humanitarian audiology, and their experiences establishing a non-profit clinic in their community and their global humanitarian adventures. If you missed the presentation by Dr. Baxter and Dr. Clark, you can view it below.



Incorporating Humanitarian Audiology in Your Practice
Deborah Clark, Au.D. and Jane Baxter, Au.D.

Since AuDacity 2020, I have received numerous requests for additional information and examples of audiologists who are incorporating humanitarian audiology into their practices. I am excited to be able to bring readers two such stories in this issue and I plan to include humanitarian audiology as a regular series in Audiology Practices.

Please join me in learning more about the Norm and JoAnn Frink Hearing Foundation and Hearing the Call Colorado! If you have a story to share for publication, please submit it to me at sczuhajewski@audiologist.org.    
The Norm and JoAnn Frink Hearing Foundation: A Non-Profit’s Journey from Concept to Creation
Author: Scot Frink, Au.D. & Bryan Greenaway, Au.D.

Three years shy of our 40th anniversary, we, the owners of Salem Audiology Clinic in Salem, Oregon, along with one of our employees, decided to expand our charitable giving from a seasonal tradition to a year-round program. To that end, we created a separate non-profit entity, the Norm and JoAnn Frink Hearing Foundation, to serve those in our community who previously lacked access to quality hearing health services. Over the past year we have taken our non-profit from an idea, through development, and into the early days of serving patients.

We were honored to be asked to write an article for this issue of Audiology Practice and were excited by the opportunity to introduce our colleagues to our new endeavor. More than that, though, we hope our story will also offer a look into our formation process for those who may have a similar calling to serve those patients who have fallen through the cracks of traditional delivery models. While not everyone’s journey will be the same as ours, we hope our story offers inspiration and insights into the non-profit creation process.
Building On a Tradition of Giving Back to the Community
Founded in 1982, Salem Audiology Clinic has grown a proud reputation of opening its doors to all who need service, whether traditionally insured, on Medicaid, or uninsured. In 2005, our clinic had its first annual “Gift of Hearing” holiday program. The program, which was supported by Phonak in that first year, asked community members to nominate people who were in need and deserving of hearing aids but could not afford them. Phonak donated one set of mid-range devices for the program, but after receiving over twenty letters nominating people with inspiring stories, it was clear one set would not be enough. By pulling devices from the clinic’s used hearing aid stock, nearly every person who was nominated that year received amplification.

After the success of that first year, the program became an annual project, providing services for as many deserving patients as possible. By partnering with local churches and community organizations, we were able to continue to find candidates year after year. On the supply side, hearing aid manufacturers stepped up with donations most years. By supplementing the donations with devices from the clinic’s used and trade-in stock, we were able to meet the needs of our patients every year.

In 2019, after 14 years of successful “Gift of Hearing” events and a new hire with a passion for humanitarian audiology, the decision was made to take the clinic’s charitable giving to the next level. Planning began in late 2019 to create a separate 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the Norm and JoAnn Frink Hearing Foundation, to serve the types of patients the Gift of Hearing program helped in a year-round capacity.
Determining Our Who, Our What, and Our How
In the early days after deciding to start a non-profit, we only had three aspects of the Foundation decided. First, we wanted to serve our community. Second, the Foundation would be named for Norm and JoAnn Frink, the generous and community-focused founders of Salem Audiology Clinic. And finally, the Foundation would see patients on Fridays, as Dr. Greenaway had been hired on at four days a week to allow him to do charity work on Fridays.

From there, the first decision was to determine exactly who the new Foundation would serve and what services would be offered. We drew early inspiration from the work of providers like William Diles, M.S., who started a hospice hearing aid program within his clinic. The idea of tackling a specific niche was appealing, however, at the end of the day we had to look at our community and listen to what its needs were. We had an early meeting with a local free clinic which was in need of an audiologist to take their referrals. This interaction, along with further research into the community, led us to the conclusion that the patients and needs of our community were broad, and thus our approach to serving it would need to be equally broad. This meeting also helped us realize that, while we had an early focus on hearing aids, there was also a need for quality diagnostic testing for the underserved population we were targeting. By letting our community and its members help shape our mission, we were able to create an organization that would best serve them.

In the end, we decided on setting our patient criteria based on the geographic location and financial need of patients. Geographic location was important for two reasons. First, it allowed us to ensure it was truly members of our community who we were serving. Second, as we began to research possible grants for future funding of the non-profit, we discovered many restricted or gave preference to organizations who focused their work on certain counties or regions.

With regard to financial need, we found that many healthcare non-profits in the area used the Federal Poverty Guideline in establishing their financial means tests. Selecting an actual dollar amount was one of the more difficult parts of the early policy-making process. We wanted to pick a number that would ensure our limited resources would go to those that most needed them first, but we also did not want to exclude patients who truly had no other options for hearing health care. An upper income limit of two hundred percent of the federal poverty guideline, based on household size was eventually selected, with the understanding that flexibility may be needed in the future.

At this point we had our “who”–we would serve local patients whose needs were not being met by existing systems due to financial constraints. We also knew what services we would be providing – largely hearing aid-based care, but with the addition of diagnostic services when needed. The final ingredient, the how, was easy for us. Since we were spinning off from an established and successful best practices clinic, we were able to borrow a great deal of Salem Audiology Clinic’s procedure manual and patient forms. The ability to not reinvent the wheel by starting from scratch was a welcome shortcut in the process. The final piece of the puzzle was where patients would be seen. This was also made easy by the ties to Salem Audiology Clinic. After consulting with an attorney who specialized in non-profit formation, we established Salem Audiology could donate the needed clinic space on Fridays. This allowed us to see patients in an existing clinic and use their equipment, which eliminated what could have been an expensive and complicated part of the non-profit.

The final part of building the clinical side of the non-profit was establishing sources of hearing aids with which to fit our patients. Early on, it was assumed that we would rely heavily on Salem Audiology Clinic’s used hearing aid stock to meet our needs. While this is still a significant resource for the Foundation, we have been surprised and overwhelmed by the number of donations which have come directly from patients who have heard about the Foundation and wanted to help out. While we currently are maintaining a sufficient stock of devices to meet our patient needs, we hope to continue the tradition of manufacturer partnerships, as well as partnering with other clinics and providers who wish to donate to the cause.

Finally, while putting our clinical procedures together, we were simultaneously moving through the sometimes tedious process of registering the Foundation with the State of Oregon and establishing our tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service. While this was the most intimidating part of the experience going into it, a little patience, a lot of internet research, and consultation with an excellent non-profit attorney paid off when we opened our doors as an established 501(c)(3) non-profit at the end of the summer of 2020.
Seeing the Payoff and Looking to the Future
As a year worth of work and planning came together into a functioning non-profit, there were three moments at which it truly felt like all our efforts had been worthwhile. The first was seeing the launch of our website, frinkfoundation.org, which felt like the closest thing to a ribbon cutting ceremony a non-profit could get in the middle of a global pandemic. The second was the overwhelming support we received from the very beginning on social media from both members of our local community and members of our larger audiology community.

The third moment – the one that really brought home the weight of what we had built – was when we fit our first patient with hearing aids. This patient had moved to Oregon after losing everything in the Camp Fire in Paradise California in 2018. Among their lost possessions were their hearing aids. They had been without amplification for well over a year as they had started to build a new life in Oregon. With all the expenses of relocating and starting over in a new town, and with no benefit through insurance, the patient did not think they would be able to get hearing aids again.

The opportunity to fit that patient with hearing aids and the joy she felt in being able to easily communicate with her friends and family were more rewarding that we could have imagined when we started this process. Knowing there are stories, like that first patient’s, all across our region is what inspires us to keep pushing forward and doing the humanitarian audiology work that we have started.

As we look to the future, we see opportunities to continue serving patients just like our first one, but we also see opportunities for growth. The key to our success has been and will continue to be in our relationships with audiologists, with community groups and leaders, and with referring providers who can identify candidates for our services and send them our way. As we move forward we hope to build more of these relationships and strengthen the ones we have through collaboration and education.

We also see an opportunity to grow in how we serve our patients by acting as a source of information. While building the Foundation, we envisioned a successful patient interaction ending with us fitting the patient with hearing aids. After only a short time in practice, however, we’ve seen potential patients who we discovered were eligible for services through the Veterans Administration, vocational rehabilitation programs, or Medicaid. Helping these patients meant taking on the role of informer more than practitioner. Through these experiences it has become obvious that connecting patients with resources can be as valuable as our core product of amplification. As the landscape of audiology changes in the coming years, we look forward to finding new and exciting ways to meet our patients’ needs.

As audiologists know well, good hearing health has far reaching benefits for individuals, their loved ones, and their communities. Through the Norm and JoAnn Frink Hearing Foundation, we hope to provide high quality, best practice audiological care that will help our neighbors reach their full potential. Whether that means finding meaningful employment, reconnecting with friends and family, or rediscovering a hobby that hearing loss took away from them, better hearing is the first step. We look forward to continuing to help those who need it most and to growing with our community.

For more information on the Norm and JoAnn Frink Hearing Foundation, visit us at ffrinkfoundation.org or on Facebook.    

Norm and JoAnn Frink

C. Scot Frink, Au.D., FAAA is co-owner of Salem Audiology Clinic, founded by his father in 1982, and is one of the first private practice audiology clinics in the United States.

Bryan Greenaway, Au.D. is a clinical audiologist at Salem Audiology Clinic. He has a professional passion for diagnostics, hearing aids, aural rehabilitation, and tinnitus.


Entheos and Hearing the Call Colorado Bring Audiologists Together to Give the Gift of Hearing that Encourages the Recipient to Pay it Forward
Author: ADA Staff Reports

On October 3, 2020 representatives from six Colorado audiology practices and the Entheos cooperative came together to take part in Hearing the Call Colorado, a unique humanitarian effort that allows audiologists to give the gift of hearing and create a “circle of giving” to benefit their local communities.

Volunteers convened at Longmont Hearing and Tinnitus Center, owned by Dr. D’Anne Rudden, for the inaugural Hearing the Call Colorado clinic, designed to provide underserved members of the community with the audiology services they need but cannot afford. However, unlike many free clinics, Hearing the Call Colorado isn’t a hand-out, but a hand-up that encourages good works to go forward. In return for hearing healthcare and low/no cost hearing aids (based on the patient’s income), Hearing the Call patients make a commitment to volunteer hours back in their community with any organization in need. In this way, the circle of giving continues and the impact from Hearing the Call is heard and felt well beyond the clinic as patients “pay it forward.”

“One of the most magical moments is the hearing smile, that moment when a person hears for the first time or has their hearing partially restored. It is hard to put into words the reaction. Sometimes people break out into tears, sometimes they are so quiet trying to take everything in. Either way, it’s an amazing moment,” says Dr. Rudden.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the already heavy economic and health burdens for those who are under-insured and working on the front lines. At the same time, face mask and social distancing requirements have exacerbated the communication challenges associated with untreated hearing loss. Hearing the Call Colorado couldn’t come at a better time.

Twins Angela and Amanda were among the fourteen patients who were evaluated and/or treated during October’s Hearing the Call Colorado clinic. View their story at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96mUiIQzKbg. The next Hearing the Call Colorado clinic is scheduled for January 23, 2021 in Arvada, Colorado. Qualified participants demonstrate proof of financial need and are given a scheduled appointment time (no walk-ins are allowed).

Hearing the Call is a global non-profit organization, affiliated with Entheos and based in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In addition to delivering long-term, sustainable hearing health care through global humanitarian trips, Hearing the Call has expanded efforts to serve local and regional communities. For more information, visit www.hearingthecall.org. Participating Hearing the Call Colorado clinics include Animas Valley Audiology (Durango), Columbine Hearing Care (Littleton), Flatirons Audiology (Lafayette), Longmont Hearing & Tinnitus Center (Longmont), McArthur Audiology (Burlington) and New Leaf Hearing Clinic (Arvada). Please contact Alan@EntheosHearing.com for more information.