In the early days of the pandemic, audiologist Joe Dansie Au.D. ’10 was at work at Peak ENT Associates in Provo when a delivery came to his home.
Dansie’s 13-year-old son put aside his schoolwork to answer the front door. He returned with a question for his mother.
“‘The FedEx lady wants to know where you want the packages,’” Dansie recalls. “She thought, That’s weird that she even asked. Just leave them on the porch like every other package that comes to us. Then, about 20 minutes later, he returns and says, ‘OK, she’s out of room. Where do you want the rest?’”
“I have a full-size pickup,” Dansie adds, “and the boxes of donated hearing aids ended up filling up my entire truck.”
Hearing aids are not something that one would normally recognize as having a considerable amount of bulk, but thanks to the efforts of the Hear for A Purpose Foundation, their storage and distribution can actually be a challenge.
Started in 2016, the foundation is a 501(c)(3) primarily comprised of audiologists who graduated from Utah State University. Last October, the group spent four full days in the Dominican Republic helping to fit 193 donated hearing aids valued at around $250,000, as well as providing other free audiology services.
“In the U.S., we’re really fortunate that we have access to hearing healthcare,” Dansie says. “Even though hearing aids can be expensive, at least we have the avenues for it to happen in most scenarios. But down there, there’s a limited number of people who are even trained to fit or program hearing aids or do hearing tests. And the amount that a hearing aid costs is the same as it would be in the U.S., so it’s almost insurmountable for them to even get access to hearing healthcare.”
Last fall’s mission, the fifth trip the group has made to the Dominican Republic, included USU professor Heather Jensen and alumni Quin Card ’05, M.S. ’15, Sarah Cordingley ’10, Au.D. ’14, Brittany Bown ’14, Au.D. ’18, Candi Bown ’85, Au.D. ’88, and Chalese Buttars ’11, as well as Tiffany Dansie and Buttars’ husband, Tony Garcia, who served as translators. Dan Keller ’04, Au.D. ’08, Curtis Thomas ’81, M.S. ’95, John Foster ’05, Au.D. ’09, and Brittany ’12, Au.D. ’16, and Pedro Garcia have also gone on some of the trips, which are all-volunteer efforts where the participants pay for their own travel.
The foundation plans to return to the Dominican Republic for another clinic this fall.
“This is our way of grounding ourselves and reminding ourselves why we went into audiology,” says Card, who currently works for a hearing-aid manufacturer that has donated equipment for the missions. “This is the fun, feel-good part, and that sometimes gets lost in your day job. You kind of get caught up in the mundane and kind of take things for granted, and then you are able to go to a place where this is not the norm and be reminded of the amazing technology we have.
“Being able to share that with people who don’t usually get it is really rewarding.”