Hearing a Need Loud and Clear

Two Dubuque physicians partnered with the Community Foundation to launch a new fund that covers the cost of children’s hearing aids after seeing the financial burden the devices can place on families.

Imagine learning your child needs hearing aids – but you are unable to afford them. You are unable to help your child hear their teacher, understand a TV show, or easily carry on a conversation. It is not only heartbreaking for the parent, but for two local physicians, as well.

After seeing this anguish too many times, Dr. Tim King and Dr. Ed Alt decided that they would do something to alleviate the financial burden for families. The doctors partnered with the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque to establish the Hearing Improvement & Kids Equipment (HIKE) endowment fund. The HIKE Fund will cover the cost of any hearing equipment a child needs, an expense most insurance plans will not pay.

“Learning about a child’s hearing impairment is stressful for families,” says Dr. King. “Add the unexpected cost of hearing equipment on top of that, and the strain can become overwhelming. We were compelled to do something to help kids hear so they can learn.”

After a doctor identifies the need for hearing aids, a family fills out a HIKE Fund application. Once received, the Foundation contacts the audiologist, arranges for a fitting, and pays the invoice directly from the fund.

“The goal is that families never see a bill,” says Mary Jo Jean-Francois, the Community Foundation’s vice president of impact. “We wanted the process to be simple and dignified.”


The HIKE Fund is an example of the role the Community Foundation plays in the region. Caring community members who recognize a need can work with the Foundation to develop a solution through philanthropy and collaboration with community partners. In this case, the doctors initially attempted to administer the program on their own but later saw the value of the Foundation’s involvement. 

“We are a partner between people who want to make monetary gifts and the people doing the work,” says Bobbi Earles, vice president of philanthropy and communications for the Foundation. “When these connections can help address critical issues, the whole community benefits.”

The fund also ties in with the Foundation's work to support reading proficiency by the end of third grade through initiatives like Every Child Reads. Hearing and seeing clearly are important to learning, and in the HIKE Fund — along with Vision to Learn — families in the Dubuque region have a supportive resource. 

In just a short time, the HIKE Fund has already made an impact. The first grants supported hearing aids for two local 10-year-olds, while Drs. King and Alt were awarded a 365 Impact Award in recognition of their work. For the physicians, the real reward comes from seeing children able to fully participate in day-to-day activities because they can access the resources they need.

Families can apply for the HIKE Fund online by clicking here. Applications also are available at Tri-State ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor’s offices and the Keystone Area Education Agency.

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