Southern Illinois University System - Edwardsville

06/20/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/20/2024 10:37

SIUE Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology Graduate Students Assist Immigrants with Free Hearing Screenings

SIUE Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology Graduate Students Assist Immigrants with Free Hearing Screenings

June 20, 2024, 11:05 AM

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology graduate students are partnering with the St. Louis International Institute to provide free hearing screenings for immigrants and refugees. This partnership will help these graduate students meet their requirements for hearing screenings and introduce them to overcoming cultural barriers in their field.

Kimberly K. Ott, AuD, CCC-A, clinical practicum supervisor, reached out to St. Louis International Institute to send graduate students to perform the hearing screenings. She said graduate students must do off-site practicum work, along with having several screenings they provide to meet criteria.

"It sounded like a great opportunity to meet all those criteria, get hearing screenings for our students, allow them to work with a diverse population, navigate some of the barriers that come up and also to be involved in the community," said Ott.
Ott said the partnership with the St. Louis International Institute has helped graduate students collaborate with other professionals in different fields of study, such as caseworkers and educators.

The Institute helps individuals who have recently arrived in the United States access healthcare, navigate the citizenship process, and find transportation. According to Dr. Ott, the Institute's partnership with SIUE is in the initial stages. Social workers from the Institute visit SIUE once a semester as guest speakers for allyship conversations.

Ott said one of the projects the graduate students did as part of the allyship conversations was locate providers in St. Louis such as audiologists and ear specialists who accept Medicaid and Medicare. They also made sure providers were located on public transportation routes and accepted non-English speaking clients. If specialists find that clients do not meet their criteria during their initial screenings, they offer referrals.

During the screenings, graduate students face challenges, including language barriers and cultural differences between themselves and their clients. Some experienced clients who were reluctant to let their children be screened, or clients who did not want to make eye contact during their screenings. Graduate students also worked with interpreters.

"It's great for our students to learn how to navigate some of those barriers and how to communicate with someone who doesn't speak English," said Ott said. "At the same time, it was providing a much-needed service for their population who has difficulty accessing healthcare or getting necessary services."

Hearing screenings involve the client wearing a pair of headphones, then responding to tones they hear by raising their hands. Due to language barriers, graduate students sometimes would have to communicate with their clients non-verbally.

"It really was a challenge for me," said Grace Boeschen, a graduate assistant in the Department of Teaching and Learning. "I had a majority non-English speakers, so I had to get creative."

Boeschen said the screenings at the Institute have helped her learn how to improvise and adapt to situations by being creative. One of her creative practices includes rewarding children with stickers after they responded to the tones they heard.

"I just think for me, it was very eye opening," Boeschen said. "I had not had much DEI experience, so it really opened my eyes and see that there are people that really do need these free services. It is easy to do these things, and it does not take much time. It really helps people."

As of their first two visits to the Institute, 30 screenings have been provided by SIUE graduate students. The graduate students will visit the Institute again over the summer months.

PHOTOS: SIUE Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology graduate students