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Meet Ellen Simon of HEAR Center in Pasadena

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ellen Simon.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I am the Executive Director of HEAR Center. I have been the Executive Director at HEAR since 2007. I have been a part of the staff of HEAR Center since 1983, where I started as an Audiologist. I always loved helping people communicate and that is why I became an Audiologist. I took on the position of Executive Director so that I could help more people have better access to speech and hearing services at an affordable cost. As you know, HEAR Center is a nonprofit that provides speech and hearing services to individuals of all ages. We offer free hearing and speech screenings to thousands of people throughout LA County and work to provide affordable care. Because of our early intervention and care programs, our clients have gone on to contribute to others and society, and have had strong academic and life success. Without individual donations, we cannot keep our doors open to continue to provide services to those who need them.

Founded in 1954, HEAR Center’s mission is to help people at all stages of life be a part of the hearing and speaking world. As the only nonprofit audiological and speech therapy center in the San Gabriel Valley, our goal is to offer complete and affordable hearing and speech services, so that everyone in our community has access to high-quality care.

Current services include:

• Audiology – diagnostic hearing testing, complete hearing aid services (evaluation, fitting, training, follow-up), guidance in aural rehabilitation and hearing conservation. Last FY: 462 unduplicated individuals served; 62% children, 28% seniors, and 10% adults.

• Speech Pathology – individual speech and language therapy, development of listening skills using hearing aids and/or cochlear implants, preparation for mainstream education for children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, and early identification and remediation of communication disorders. Last FY: 107 unduplicated individuals served; 100% children.

• Free Hearing and Speech Screenings – a community service offered at preschools, schools, senior centers, and health and wellness fairs, as well as at our Center on a walk-in basis. Last FY: 166 off-site events; 5,207 unduplicated individuals screened (95% children); 11% (579) of those tested “failed,” indicating a hearing or speech problem requiring further attention; 73 provided with a free, full-scale hearing or speech evaluation at our Center.

• Health Education – serving as an important community resource for information on hearing and speech disorders and hearing conservation through health fairs, public presentations, and responses to inquiries for information.

• Charity Care – HEAR Center does not turn anyone away due to an inability to pay. We accept all forms of insurance and have a sliding scale for those with little or no means of payment.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, approximately 1 in 10 Americans has a hearing or speech disorder. In fact, hearing loss is the most common developmental disorder identifiable at birth, and its prevalence increases throughout childhood due to late onset and acquired hearing loss.

If not identified and treated early, hearing loss in children can cause speech and language delays, learning problems that result in reduced academic achievement, social isolation, and poor self-concept. Beyond the personal challenges that stem from hearing loss and speech delays, the cost to society for a child not receiving early intervention is estimated at $1 million over their lifetime. For seniors, untreated hearing loss can significantly impact their everyday life, leading to a decline in cognitive functioning and causing loneliness and isolation that is frequently associated with depression and anxiety.

Through the Free Hearing and Speech Screening Program, we reach out to individuals – primarily children and seniors – so those with undiagnosed communication impairments can be identified and receive the intervention they need to improve their quality of life. Key program components include:

1) Outreach. We conduct outreach through phone calls and a mailing to our list of 250+ local preschools, schools, senior centers, and other community centers.

2) Scheduling and Coordination. Our Screening Coordinator coordinates with sites that want to host a free screening event, setting the date, time and location for the event, as well as ensuring that parent permission slips are received for children.

3) Screenings Events. Screening events are held at our partner sites. A licensed or certified clinician goes to the site to conduct the screening with an assistant, as needed. Everyone is given information on hearing conservation.

4) Follow up. To expedite an accurate diagnosis and appropriate intervention, we offer everyone who fails the screening a free, full-scale hearing or speech evaluation at our Center.

5) Additional Follow up. Whenever possible within the constraints of personal privacy and our relationship with the site, we continue to follow up with those who fail the tests to facilitate proper care, offering discounted hearing and speech therapy services to those in need.

Program Objectives / Measurable objectives over the 12-month grant period include:

1) Conducting at least 160 free hearing and speech screening events.

2) Screening at least 5,000 individuals (over 90% children and seniors).

3) Identifying at least 500 individuals who may be suffering from undiagnosed hearing or speech impairments and ensuring appropriate follow-up care.

4) Conducting free, full-scale hearing or speech evaluations at our Center for at least 70 individuals who fail the initial screening.

HEAR Center is now the only organization in Los Angeles County that goes out into the community to conduct free hearing and speech screenings. Schools and pediatricians also do not routinely provide the type of screenings we do. Over the past four years, we have greatly expanded the program, tripling the number of individuals screened from 1,724 in FYE 2013 to 5,207 in FYE 2017.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has not been a smooth road. we have and still face funding issues. We are a nonprofit organization and do not turn anyone away due to lack of funding. We accept very low reimbursement rates from insurance companies that for-profit organizations will not accept. We provide free service on a regular basis. We count on grants and donations to meet our budget needs and usually fall short.

HEAR Center – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
What sets us apart is that we are a not for profit organization. there is no other not for profit Speech and Hearing clinic in LA County. We have been in service to the community for over 60 years and we have a great reputation for excellent care with state of the art equipment. We are most proud of the quality of our service and the number of people we have cared for over the years.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
When I look back on my long career at HEAR Center I have many proud moments. As a Pediatric Audiologist, some of my proudest moments were fitting babies and children with hearing aids and watching their faces the first time they heard sound, the first time they heard their mom’s voice. It was very moving and beautiful.

Today, as the Executive Director, I am most proud of our work as a team serving our clients and hearing the success stories from the staff. I am proud of all our efforts to keep our doors open to serve the public.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Berenice Ortega
Mary Trigg
Ellen Simon
Armida Baylon
Ellen Narver
Melanie McShane
Janet McIntyre

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment


    December 10, 2018 at 20:08

    i love articles that promote all the good things a person or provider brings to the community and to people. I am hopeful that this form allows comments from opposing view points to give people who maybe contemplating using HEAR CENTER a chance to publish comments that may differ from the articles positive writings…

    and with that I will say that although Hear Center promotes how they do good things for the community and give free hearing screenings to people who need, that those claims are not the full or complete picture.

    MY ISSUE is a simple issue. iM JUST TRYING TO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT…Hear Center wont even do that…they have a POLICY. they need insurance approval/authorization in advance…

    ok.. I contacted my insurance, and long story short, I had to appeal and request approval for OUT OF NETWORK AUTHORIZATION.. the reason is, my daughter is deaf, and had been seen by HEAR CENTER for more then 20 years. I finally got my out of network approval. (not easy), Hear Center acknowledged they received the paperwork..BUT, they claimed my insurance had the wrong codes…

    ok, they have paperwork, with their name, with the word APPROVED, and they wont schedule an appointment for 2+ weeks from now, in anticipation of getting the correct codes? HUH????

    How is it, their website has displayed prominently a form to SCHEDULE APPOINTMENT, when in fact, they can not, and will not schedule an appointment until they get insurance approval…

    they should correct their website form to be a simple CONTACT ME form…where as they will follow up with phone call to get the patient to become an insurance medical codes person, and do the work that people go to school to learn how to do???

    how is it they advertise on their website that they take cash, visa, mastercard, amex, but they wont schedule an appointment from someone who has given them assurance that they will be paid, prior to seeing the patient..

    If I said I wanted to pay cash… they would have less assurance of payment, (at the time of making the appointment) then they had with my situation where they have paperwork from a legit insurance company…

    i.e. If I said I was paying with cash, they would make an appointment, and not know if I would show up, or not, and if I did show up, would I have cash prior to being seen, and if I didnt, when I arrived in the office for that appt, and not have the cash, they would lose out on not having a patient to be seen at that time slot…

    not to mention, they do have history with me and my family, NEVER MISSING A SINGLE APPT IN OVER 15+ YEARS. and PAYING WHATEVER copays or out of pocket expenses that may have occurred over that period of time.

    at the least, be warned, they have policies… we dont know what all those policies are… and will only find out the bits and pieces and summaries that we are given by the front desk or an audiologist.. as they recite them when they want or need.

    they wont waiver on those policies… no matter the issue or the circumstance. if it’s in their policy, and if it doesnt work for you, then you will be OUT OF LUCK…

    if u r a patient and have an issue arise and will incur hardship, you will be out of luck, even though hear center COULD if they chose waive a policy, assuming the request/situation wouldnt infringe upon the Hear Center in any way…

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