Now Hear This!

Monclair State collaborates on the New Jersey Hearing Aid Program

Photo: Mike Peters

Since its launch in January 2014, the New Jersey Hearing Aid Project (NJHAP) has dispensed nearly 100 free refurbished hearing aids to low income senior citizens. Montclair State is collaborating with the New Jersey Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and Sertoma/Hearing Charities of America on this project.

The NJHAP, which involves collecting, reconditioning and dispensing used hearing aids to eligible New Jersey residents, came about after Steve Murphy, executive director of Sertoma/Hearing Charities of America and Dr. David Alexander, director of the New Jersey Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing reached out to Janet Koehnke, professor and chair of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Montclair State.

“After some discussion and meetings to clarify the role of each of the participating entities, an agreement was drafted and signed by all parties,” Koehnke says. She then asked Maris Appelbaum, director of Hearing Aid Services at the University’s Center for Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology to join the project.

The program limits eligibility to New Jersey residents who are 65 years of age or older and whose incomes do not exceed $26,575 if single and $32,582 if married. Applicants must not be eligible for other sources of hearing aid assistance, such as Medicaid.

“As the first statewide program of its kind in the country, we are extremely pleased with the project’s success thus far,” says Koehnke.

A Hearing Aid Bank
The University houses the hearing aid bank and dispenses the hearing aids from its Center for Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology to accepted applicants who are able to visit the Center. “For individuals who live farther away or who prefer a different setting, we have other participating audiologists across the state,” explains Koehnke. After seeing the person, the audiologist lets Appelbaum know what kind of device is needed, so she can determine if the bank has something available. Once the hearing aid is refurbished, Appelbaum sends it to the audiologist to fit it for the patient.

“As the project moves forward, we would like to involve more audiologists across the state to dispense hearing aids, which would ensure easier access to services for the patients,” says Appelbaum.

So far, all the devices dispensed through the project have been donated. Koehnke and Appelbaum encourage people who may have used hearing aids – regardless of function, style or age – to donate them to the Center for Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology. In time, they plan to set up more collection centers around the state to further augment the Center’s inventory.

“With the help of Sertoma/Hearing Charities, we are raising funds so that if there are no appropriate devices available it may be possible to obtain a new device,” Koehnke says.

In addition, the New Jersey Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing has provided the Montclair State doctoral program in Audiology with funding that supports doctoral students who are helping with the project.

“Together with our collaborators, we look forward to the continued growth of the program,” says Koehnke. “We expect that over time, knowledge about it will increase and that we will be able to provide even more people with the hearing aids they need.”

If you would like to donate a hearing aid to the program, it can be dropped off or mailed directly to: The Center for Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology, 1515 Broad Street, Building B, Bloomfield, NJ 07003.

To learn more about the project, or download an application, go to New Jersey Hearing Aid Project.