SWAMPSCOTT — Joan McCormack, doctor of audiology and owner of Swampscott-based Atlantic Hearing Care, has started a new nonprofit aimed at increasing access to hearing aids for low-income people, especially senior citizens.
McCormack said North Shore Hearing Foundation, which started last month, is a new Swampscott nonprofit with a mission to increase access to quality hearing care and devices for people of low income, up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level.
She said hearing aids are a medical necessity, but are not covered by most health insurance.
“We do know that good hearing is really, really important to participating fully in life,” McCormack said. “It’s our hearing that keeps us connected to other people. Having untreated hearing loss can lead to social isolation, depression and poor health. Recent research has shown that using well-fit hearing aids improves your quality of life and might help prevent memory and cognitive decline by keeping people engaged and stimulating the brain.”
McCormack said the nonprofit has partnered with local councils on aging — Lynn, Nahant, Swampscott, Marblehead, Salem and Peabody — to identify people who need their service and help them complete the financial aid application.
Space and professional services are donated by the staff of Atlantic Hearing Care, which is based in Swampscott at 990 Paradise Road, but also has an office in Peabody at 2 First Ave. Atlantic Hearing Care is an independent private practice that provides hearing aids and exams for people of all ages.
Once people are approved for financial assistance, McCormack said they can come into either office and have a hearing evaluation, which is typically covered by insurance, but might cost them a small co-pay.
Following their evaluation, they are provided with donated or reconditioned hearing aids, which will cost them a small co-pay up to $250, based on their income. Some hearing aid manufacturers have donated or discounted hearing aids for the nonprofit’s program. The co-pay goes back to North Shore Hearing Foundation for the next person to get help, McCormack said. Hearing aids typically last between four to six years, as people are wearing them constantly every day, she said.
McCormack said the nonprofit is focused on seniors because they have the greatest demand for help with hearing. In Massachusetts, she said there is mandated insurance coverage for hearing aids for children — it’s unusual for a child not to have insurance coverage, but if that’s the case, the foundation with help them as well.
McCormack said she had been working on starting North Shore Hearing Foundation since last fall, when she encountered a man who was blind and living in elderly housing. She said he was in desperate need of hearing aids, but didn’t have the insurance or resources, and she found it really difficult to find funding for him so he could get what he needed.
She said that encounter made her realize that a lot of people don’t come in to see an audiologist because they’re not going to be able to afford hearing aids. As part of Atlantic Hearing Care’s 10-year anniversary, McCormack said the practice wanted to be able to give back to the community, which was one of the reasons for starting the nonprofit.
“This is a life-changing service for those who have had to go without hearing aids because they could not afford them,” McCormack said.
North Shore Hearing Foundation collects hearing aids at the Lynn Senior Center. The nonprofit is holding a Halloween Oldies Dance fundraiser on Oct. 14 at the Knights of Columbus in Peabody from 7 to 11 p.m. Admission at the door is $15.
For more information on North Shore Hearing Foundation, contact McCormack at 781-581-1500 or visit www.nshearingfoundation.com.