John Ross, a former resident of Athens, has been coming to UGA’s Speech and Hearing Clinic for the past four years, so he knows the routine.
After leaving the waiting room, he sits patiently in a soundproof booth while Alice Sanderson, a licensed audiologist, examines his ear canals.
“Do you see any brains in there?” he jokingly asked.
On this particular day in January, Ross is visiting the clinic to have the volume of his hearing aids digitally adjusted. Although Ross currently lives in Gainesville, the 73-year-old said he doesn’t mind driving more than 80 miles round trip for a visit because of the quality of care that he receives and the relationship that he has built.
“I’m not just a number here,” Ross said. “They’re second to none for understanding my problem.”
The clinic opened to the UGA campus and local community in fall 1953. For the past 60 years, it has provided professional services for speech, language, voice, resonance, swallowing and hearing disorders to individuals of all ages. Such services include evaluation and therapy for speech sounds, fluency, voice disorders and language disorders; accent modification classes are available as well as aural rehabilitation classes for those with hearing aids.
Originally housed in Waddell Hall, the clinic also was located in Baldwin Hall and the psychology building before reaching its current home on the fifth floor of Aderhold Hall. It is part of the College of Education’s communication sciences and special education department.
Sanderson joined the clinic’s faculty in 1994. As an assistant clinical professor and the clinical coordinator for audiology, she said she enjoys being able to interact with clients while providing training to students.
“Hearing loss is a quality of life issue,” Sanderson said. “I love helping people hear.”
Graduate students pursuing a degree in speech-language pathology are required to work in the clinic before interning in hospital and school settings. They provide speech and hearing services to clients while being supervised by the clinic’s state-licensed and nationally certified faculty.
Jessi Garzarek, a first-year graduate student studying speech-language pathology, said she loves being able to apply what she has learned in class while working under supportive supervisors.
“My favorite part of the clinic is the opportunity we have to get to know real people,” Garzarek said, “and to try to make a difference in their lives.”
In celebration of reaching its 60th year, the clinic has a series of events scheduled to begin Feb. 28. Free speech and hearing screenings will kick off the celebration that morning; these are for individuals who make an appointment in advance.
The clinic administers more than 2,000 free screenings to the community each year, including once every fall and spring semester.
Some of this semester’s graduate students, including Garzarek, attended the Special Olympics in Marietta to conduct hearing screenings on participants.
“Everyone should have the means to be heard and as a graduate student I hope to develop the skills necessary to facilitate communication in others,” Garzarek said.
Continuing with the celebration, the speech and hearing screenings will be followed by a continental breakfast and open house of the clinic’s facilities and labs. Later on Feb. 28, UGA professors will present and discuss research in the communication sciences and disorders field, which will be a continuing education opportunity for professionals.
The celebration will end March 1 after the clinic’s fourth annual Ready Set Speak 5K Run/Walk fundraiser, which is coordinated by members of the UGA National Student Speech Language Hearing Association.
To make an appointment for a free screening on Feb. 28 or a later date, call 706-542-4598. For a full list of the clinic’s services visit www.coe.uga.edu/csdclinic.