BOULDER, Colo — In a world with masks and pelxiglass barriers, understanding other people can be difficult and that's especially true for anyone with hearing loss. One man has made it his mission to help make hearing services more accessible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We thought that it would be a solution to provide mobile hearing healthcare for folks who need it, who are stuck inside, who shouldn’t go out or can’t go out, folks at nursing homes and care communities," said James Richwine, the owner of Hearing Aid 911.
Richwine is driving around an old ambulance that he retrofitted with most of the equipment you would find in an audiology office. He makes house calls or stops by senior centers where he can fix hearing aids, sell new hearing devices or conduct a no touch remote hearing test.
"That keeps us completely distanced and completely safe yet provides the service that is absolutely necessary," said Richwine.
On Thursday morning, Richwine was called to a house in Boulder where a little girl was having trouble with her hearing aids. He knocked on the door, took the hearing aids out to the truck and repaired them in less than an hour.
“When a hearing aid breaks down it’s an emergency for that person, it’s very disruptive to their lives," said Richwine.
10-year-old Mila Knight stood by her front door as she tried the hearing aids on again. She immediately said she could hear much better and explained that she would be able to understand her teachers in school.
"So I can hear and learn," said Knight. "It’s great."
Richwine's mother has severe hearing loss and he knows it's been a difficult year for people who have trouble hearing. The clinic where he worked shutdown for about three weeks last March and he immediately wondered what he could do to reach patients.
"They wouldn’t be able to get the help otherwise, it’s just completely inconvenient or impossible for them to receive the help that they need," said Richwine.