Auburn Speech and Hearing Clinic provides telepractice, curbside services to accommodate patients

Published: November 19, 2020
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The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the overall importance of health and well-being. The faculty and students at the Auburn University Speech and Hearing Clinic want to remind everyone that, despite the challenges of the pandemic, communication is paramount and speech and hearing are crucial components to a person’s overall quality of life.

The Auburn Speech and Hearing Clinic, or AUSHC, was established in 1947 and is located on the first floor of Haley Center. The AUSHC reopened in May with new procedures in place to ensure client and clinician safety.

It marked the first time in more than 65 years the clinic had to significantly modify its methods of service delivery to adapt to the current environment and conditions brought on by the pandemic. In order to be open during a time when most places were not, faculty, students and staff had to adjust how they offer clinical services so that they can continue to serve clients safely.

“Adhering to CDC guidelines and procedures, we have implemented temperature checks, COVID screenings and a whole new sanitation policy—which includes a thorough cleaning after each clinical visit to eliminate cross-contamination,” said Laura Plexico, professor and chair in the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences. “Faculty and students wear face shields and face masks during all client contact, and some utilizing clear face masks when needed. We accommodate social distancing and have plexiglass dividing clients from clinicians and supervisors and keep doors open for ventilation purposes.”

While it’s been an adjustment to follow the new ways of conducting business, there’s also an upside—increased accessibility.

“We’re offering virtual services/telepractice for speech and language therapy in addition to face-to-face sessions,” said Laura Willis, a clinical professor in the department. “Clients can attend sessions on Zoom, which makes therapy accessible for those who prefer attending sessions online. We can now work with people driving from Montgomery and surrounding rural areas who have transportation issues, people who are sick or in quarantine, those with a sick family member and people who are medically unable to wear a mask.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to work with these patients in ways we couldn’t before.”

For those who need audiological services, there are other ways the clinic is making it easier for clients to have their needs met.

“We now offer curbside hearing-aid repair for established clients,” said Kelli Watts, an associate clinical professor.

Watts said curbside hearing-aid services are provided without an appointment on Mondays from 10–11 a.m., as well as Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-2:30 p.m. on a first-come, first-serve basis. Clients can take advantage of designated clinic parking spaces on Heisman Drive, just outside Haley Center. Once parked in a designated clinic parking space, clients call the clinic to check in, and a faculty member or student will meet the client at the car, assess the hearing aid issue, and then take the hearing aid into the clinic for repair.

After addressing the issue, the hearing aid is returned to the client who has remained safely in his/her vehicle. The curbside service was specifically developed to address the unique needs of the clinic’s more vulnerable and higher risk population.

“Our patients have enjoyed the curbside service,” Watts said. “Most are over age 65, and they have liked not having to leave their vehicle. If a client cannot attend these curbside times or has needs that cannot be addressed curbside, clients can still make appointments to come into the clinic.”

The clinic offers a wide range of speech, language and/or hearing services to people of all ages in the community. Many forms of health insurance are accepted, and the clinic is open to new clients.

“It is our goal to maintain a standard of safety that is consistent with CDC guidelines, while also providing our students the practicum needs required for their professional development and training,” Plexico said. “It is our mission to compassionately serve and advocate for those with communication needs in our community. In a time when many are feeling isolated and disconnected, it is important to continue to provide vital services to help individuals keep the channels of communication open.” 

Make an appointment or find out more information about the Auburn University Speech and Hearing Clinic.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.