Ellen Lafargue, Au.D., CCC-A knows that often, the older the person, the tougher it may be to convince them to wear hearing aids, but she won’t give up. After more than 30 years in the business, she understands how significantly amplification can impact someone’s life.
“We know we can connect people to life and get them back a good long way to where they were,” she said. “And people fight us all the time. It’s not the people in their 40-50s who resist, it’s the ones in their 80s. The older the person, the tougher the fight.”
In fact, one of Dr. Lafargue’s favorite stories involves a reluctant older woman, who had resisted getting hearing aids for a very long time. Her husband, who accompanied her to her hearing test, sat behind her as Dr. Lafargue administered the hearing test.
“She had just put the hearing aids on and we had started the hearing test when he whispered “honey, can you hear me?” She nodded but shushed him because she was trying to complete the test. He just kept repeating “honey, honey, I love you,” which was just the sweetest thing.”
Dr. Lafargue works for the Center for Hearing and Communication in New York City, a private, nonprofit organization which serves the needs of people of all ages who have a hearing loss.
“At CHC, we spend more time with our patients than most others do,” she explained. “Despite the fact that what we receive from insurers does not cover our cost, we do not skimp on the time we spend with them. We are under considerable financial pressures like everyone else,but despite this, we don’t turn anyone away because of an inability to pay. It’s specifically part of our mission that we will provide services to all. For this reason, we are very dependent on fundraising in order to provide the level of care we do to all. We see patients of all ages, from the very young infant to the older adult, those who can pay and those who cannot - we see them all.”
The Center for Hearing and Communication offers services through three clinical departments. The audiology department offers diagnostic services, hearing aid evaluations, assistive listening devices and demonstrations, and tinnitus management. The communication department provides speech and language therapy services to children and adults with hearing impairments and auditory processing disorders. The emotional health and wellness department provides mental health counseling and evalution to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing and their families.
Their funding comes from a variety of sources. They charge fees for services for those who can pay, while those who qualify pay a discounted rate. They accept many different types of private commercial insurance as well as Medicaid and Medicare. They have various contracts with the NYS Early Intervention Program, the NYC Department of Education, Vocational Rehabilitation and other private companies who contract with them to provide employee testing. And, of course, they do a lot of fundraising.
“Fundraising is approximately 40% of our budget, she said. “We host special events and have generous donors who support our work. “
Some of the donations support a mobile unit which conducts hearing screenings and evaluations throughout the community particularly atsenior centers and preschools. The message painted on the side of the mobile unit reads “When was the last time you had your hearing screened” and is the reason for many of the phone calls the New York center receives. Additionally, Dr. Lafargue lectures frequently at various meetings about the effects of untreated hearing loss and the need for amplifcation in general, most recently at the NYC Alzheimer’s Association and Hearing Loss Association of America.
Dr. Lafargue, who became an audiologist after a relative was born with a profound hearing loss, is a strong advocate of patient-centered care. “I believe people have to have a say in what’s going to happen to them in all aspects of healthcare,” she said. “I feel that if they don’t participate, then they won’t cooperate and won’t benefit from what we want to do.”