HearU Nebraska bridges financial gap to provide hearing aids for children across Nebraska

HearU Nebraska bridges financial gap to provide hearing aids for children across Nebraska

02 Mar 2018    By Kelcey Buck

When Eric and Brittney Kowalski found out in 2016 that their family of three needed not one, but two sets of hearing aids, they faced the harsh reality of knowing they could not afford both at that time. That’s when their five-year-old daughter’s audiologist at E.N.T. Physicians of Kearney told them about HearU Nebraska. 

When their daughter, Bria, was diagnosed with a hearing loss just before starting kindergarten in their hometown of Loup City, Nebraska, Brittney was in the process of getting hearing aids to address her own hearing loss. 

“We were stressing out a little bit because I know what hearing aids cost and we weren’t financially ready to buy two sets of hearing aids,” Eric said. “Fortunately, our audiologist explained HearU Nebraska to us and gave us an application. I filled it out right then and there.” 

HearU Nebraska is a non-profit organization established by Stacie Ray, an associate professor of practice in the audiology program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders. Now in its 10th year of existence, HearU Nebraska provides hearing aids to children across the state ages birth to 18 years whose insurance does not cover the cost of hearing aids.

Last year, HearU Nebraska provided 67 children in Nebraska with 108 hearing aids. Those children, ages two months to 18 years old, reside in 28 different communities across the state. 

About a month after Eric filled out the application, Bria received the green sparkly hearing aids she had picked out from HearU Nebraska, just in time to join her classmates in kindergarten. 

“HearU Nebraska made a tremendous impact on our lives,” Eric said. “It was a blessing not to have to worry about finding a way to afford the hearing aids financially, and it gave my daughter the ability to hear effectively and learn and not fall behind in school.” 

As she approaches her seventh birthday in April, Bria is as active as any other first grader, thanks in part to her parents’ encouragement. In addition to the hearing loss Brittney has had since childhood, Eric lives with cerebral palsy, so both parents know how to adapt to living with health challenges. 

“I just sat Bria down and told her, ‘This is what to expect. It’s just part of your body now.’ She’s accepted it well,” Eric said. “She makes sure she has her hearing aids in and they test them at school every morning. She knows how to clean them herself. 

“Bria’s in dance and gymnastics. It hasn’t prevented her from being involved in things. I didn’t let my disability hold me back by any means, and I stressed the same thing to her.”

To learn more about HearU Nebraska, visit https://go.unl.edu/hearunebraska. In 2011, HearU Nebraska was established as a fund through the University of Nebraska Foundation. To contribute to the fund, visit https://go.unl.edu/hearu-neb.

Special Education and Communication Disorders