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Heuser Hearing Institute: Celebrating 75 Years of Leadership Helping The Deaf and Hard of Hearing

By VOICE-TRIBUBE

Photos: Matt Johnson



It’s 12:30 pm, and a rambunctiously adorable group of three-and-four-year-olds are gathered inside the cafeteria at Heuser Hearing & Language Academy (formerly known as Louisville Deaf Oral School). They’re wrapping up snack time, smiling, chatting and communicating around a small table in their classroom. Their teachers signal to the children it’s time for recess. It’s indoors on this particular cold on this rainy almost spring morning. The children attentively listen and line up; some communicate through sign and lip reading; while others communicate with hearing aids and cochlear implants; other children at the school largely have their hearing intact — they could be there in support of a sibling, or for other reasons. 75 years ago, as a result of the vision of two organizations, Heuser Hearing Institute was formed. It was the seed that sprouted the Institute to grow into a statewide organization serving the state’s population of deaf and hard of hearing individuals. The school is part of the larger nonprofit organization, Heuser Hearing Institute, which serves thousands of patients per year for clinical and diagnostic care — both children and adults — or as Education Director Debbie Woods relays, the Institute serves patients “from twinkle to wrinkle.” 



The Heuser Team: A Special Connection to the Deaf and Hard of HearingSomewhat unintentional and somehow serendipitous, several of the team members have personal connections to those with disabilities and hearing loss. CEO Brett Bachmann, J.D., LL.M, spent years as an attorney representing parents with special needs children. In addition to both his grandfather and father having suffered from hearing loss, Bachmann also struggles with it, like many aging adults. Debbie's late daughter, Maddie Makenna Garvue, was deafblind and went through the school. In fact, her research for the  best care and education is what led her to move to Louisville. Philanthropy Officer Will Frentz, a former student who has a double cochlear implant, returned to the school that gave him his start; his mission is to help raise funds to benefit others in the community who are experiencing similar struggles. Longtime employer Dr. Ingrid Edwards, Au.D., an audiologist, has been Heuser’s clinical director since 2014, working in speech and mental health.

”Before the pandemic hit, we noticed people that had the initial diagnosis of hearing needed additional services. These services are now provided by an on-staff social worker,” said Bachmann. 



The AcademyHeuser Hearing & Language Academy (HHLA), has served our community since 1948. It began through joint sponsorship of the Woman’s Club of Louisville and the Kiwanis Club. Now located inside a 35,000 square-foot building, the school — the first of its kind in Kentucky and a leading model in the US and across the globe — serves over 120 children (ages birth through seven) and their families annually, offering state-of-the art educational instruction through its Parent Infant, Preschool and Kindergarten Programs. The Academy’s staff also work with patients inside Heuser’s Diagnostic and Evaluation Center, through Statewide Technical Assistants Efforts and its Regional Cochlear Implant Program, providing comprehensive hearing services for adults and children (deaf, deafblind, hard of hearing and speech/language delayed) on its campus and inside the institute. In fact, the Institute’s outreach has become so nationally and internationally known, families have moved to Louisville from all across the globe to gain access to its services. 


“We’re one of the few nonprofit institutions that offer comprehensive audiology, speech and mental health services — all under one roof — in the region,” said Bachmann, who has served as the Institute’s CEO since 2013. 



Adult Services


Heuser Hearing Institute's adult services are designed to cater to the diverse needs of individuals experiencing hearing loss. With a commitment to providing comprehensive care, the institute offers a range of specialized programs aimed at restoring and enhancing auditory function in adults. From advanced diagnostic evaluations to personalized treatment plans, its team of audiologists and hearing healthcare professionals deliver unparalleled expertise and support every step of the way. Whether it's fitting state-of-the-art hearing aids or exploring innovative rehabilitation techniques, Heuser Hearing Institute prioritizes individualized care to help adults regain confidence and reconnect with the world around them.“While I am not a doctor of Audiology, my particular hearing loss was due to noise while I was in my 20s,” said Bachmann. “I wish I understood the importance of hearing protection back then, which is why Heuser focuses so much on community outreach and education on preventative care.”

Through counseling, auditory training, and assistive technology, the Institute empowers individuals to navigate everyday challenges and embrace life with renewed vigor. By fostering a supportive and inclusive environment, the Institute improves auditory function and enriches the lives of adults, enabling them to fully engage in conversations, enjoy music, and participate in social activities with newfound clarity and joy.

Not only do Heuser Hearing Institute's adult services provide crucial support for individuals experiencing hearing loss, it also plays a vital role in sustaining its broader mission, particularly in supporting its children's school. Payment for adult services contribute directly to the resources needed to maintain and enhance educational programs for children with hearing impairments. The funds support specialized classrooms, cutting-edge technology, and experienced educators who work tirelessly to ensure every child receives the support they need to thrive academically and socially. Thus, by investing in their own auditory health, adults also become champions for the next generation, enabling Heuser Hearing Institute to continue its transformative work in empowering deaf and hard-of-hearing children to reach their full potential.



Partner Agencies and Programs

Throughout the years, Heuser Hearing has developed partnerships with several local and statewide nonprofits and organizations, colleges and businesses. At press time, Bachmann counts more than 50 in total. They include ATA College of Nursing, Family Health Center, First Steps, Gentiva, KY HEARS, Lou Metro, One MD, Simmons College, Veterans Choice, The Woman’s Club of Louisville, Kosair for Kids, FBI (ear safety program), Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kentuckiana, Louisville Ballet, Louisville Orchestra, and a fire alarm program for the deaf and hard of hearing, and an ear safety program with the FBI.

“Since the pandemic, I have realized the importance of partnering with community nonprofits. With all the need out there, only together, in unison, can we elevate our community,” said Bachmann.




Heuser Hearing Institute’s 75th Anniversary Comprehensive Campaign

While the Institute and its programs are incredibly successful, more help is needed for the nonprofit to continue to grow, and allow the Institute to see more patients. The main building where medical services are offered — at 100 years old — is in great need of repair and renovation. The school facility requires continuous upgrades to ensure patients receive the greatest medical care and services as technology continues to progress. Finally, Heuser Hearing Institute wants to expand its statewide services further, as it is currently operating at — or even beyond — its current capacity. 


“Part of what we do and, the reason we have this campaign, is, we have so many services under one roof, and we have five other locations — we’re ‘kind of’ a ‘one stop shop’ for all hearing healthcare,” said Bachmann. “In addition to that, for speech delays, we have speech pathology, audiology and mental health — all on our downtown campus, and then we have speech and audiology at our remote sites.” The Institute also started a program called Kentucky Hears. Heuser now has mobile clinics in 17 Kentucky counties. “We committed with the state to improve hearing healthcare access and to help close education and hearing healthcare gaps that we see in rural Kentucky,” said Bachmann. 



Former VOICE-TRIBUNE columnists and contributors — Society Columnist Carla Sue and husband and former Broadway Series CEO Brad Broecker, along with the late society darling Sue Schusterman — have actively supported the nonprofit. In fact, Carla Sue encouraged Edith and Henry Heuser to lend their name to the Institute; the Heusers gave the initial gift to build the new school in 1999. Building upon this generous donation, Carla and Brad were instrumental in helping to raise additional funds for the Institute. 



“While our comprehensive campaign is currently seeking monetary donations for our restoration and renovation, we are also seeking people to donate their time and talents to help us uplift our community,” said Bachmann.


To learn more about Heuser Hearing Institute, visit thehearinginstitute.org, or click the QR code below.


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