Kamal Elliot is a business owner, but she's a humanitarian at heart.
An audiologist with her own private practice in Lancaster County, Elliot travels abroad about three times a year to distribute hearing aids to the underprivileged. Her humanitarian work has inspired her to provide the same services to underserved populations in Central Pennsylvania.
The owner of A&E Audiology & Hearing Center recognizes that it's not just people in undeveloped countries who don't have access to hearing aids. Even people here often don't get them or seek hearing health care, as the average cost of hearing aids is about $2,400, Elliot said.
To help people overcome those cost barriers, Elliot has formed a nonprofit called A&E Hearing Connection.
A&E Hearing will care for low income adults and children with hearing loss, and provide them with hearing aids and ongoing maintenance.
The Manhiem Township-based nonprofit received its 501(3)c status in December. It is putting a few finishing touches on its 2,000-square-foot space at 235 Bloomfield Drive before its doors open to the public in early March.
Elliot has owned A&E Audiology & Hearing Center for 17 years. The practice has three locations in Lancaster County, near Lititz, Lancaster and Willow Street.
A circle of giving
Elliot and the six audiologists who work with her at at her private practice will volunteer at the clinic. Elliot eventually wants to recruit other physicians in the area to help out.
A&E Audiology will offer financial support to get A&E Hearing off the ground, and additional funding will come from other private donors and grants. Elliot hopes to hire an executive director in the next six months or so.
A&E Hearing will serve low-income adults – people making at least 2.5 times below the federal poverty level – and underserved children.
Hearing aids and services won’t be free: Prices will be based on a sliding-fee scale, Elliot explained.
Depending on their income, patients will pay anywhere from $45 to $400 per hearing device, and they will be required to do a certain amount of volunteer work.
Patients can volunteer anywhere in the community, but must return to A&E Hearing with a signed form to prove they served.
The idea is that while the community supports the nonprofit through private donations, the nonprofit will give back to the community with volunteers, Elliot said.
She got her nonprofit model from someone she met on her travels, which she undertakes through an Indiana-based organization called Entheos Audiology Cooperative.
A fellow member of Entheos, Nora Stewart, operates a nonprofit in Indiana that also uses the circle of giving model. Stewart has been mentoring Elliot as she starts her own clinic.
"She has been instrumental in helping us set up our nonprofit," Elliot said.
Elliot also gives credit to her son, Eric Elliot, who serves as managing director at A&E Audiology.
Prominent local business people are backing Elliot by serving on A&E Hearing's board of directors.
The board includes Ryan Miller from Manheim Township-based Brent L Miller Jewelers and Goldsmiths; Gerard L. Glenn from Lancaster SCORE; Dr. Pam Vnenchak, from Lancaster General Health/Penn Medicine; and Jeff Musser from East Cocalico Township-based Musser Foundation.
A&E Hearing already has about 50 patients lined up who need hearing aids but can't afford them. Elliot will start seeing those patients at the nonprofit.
A&E Hearing is encouraging other physicians in the area to refer patients who are experiencing hearing loss.
"You never know what kind of impact these services will have on people," Kamal Elliot said. "Once you see a hearing smile, you get hooked."