Schools receive hearing screening machines

The UPMC Altoona Foundation has donated 16 digital hearing screening machines to seven Blair County school districts to promote hearing health among children and youth.

The portable machines cost $16,000, which was provided by a donation from the Ethel Mallery Trust to the UPMC Altoona Foundation. School districts conduct thousands of hearing screening exams each school year on children to detect hearing loss.

Mallery was born hard-of-hearing in 1888 and communicated through lip-reading, according to Bruce Erb, trustee/senior vice president of First National Bank. Erb knew Mallery when she was a customer at the bank while he was a teller in the 1970s.

When Mallery died in 1979, the Mallery Trust was formed specifically for the “care of children/or young people who may be deaf or hard-of-hearing.”

“When you spoke to Ethel, you knew you had to be directly facing her so she could read your lips,” Erb said. “Otherwise, you couldn’t communicate with her. Conversing was very difficult for her. I believe this trust was her way of trying to help others.”

School nurses in the school districts use the digital hearing screening machines to examine public and private school children in pre-kindergarten, third, seventh and 11th grades.

“These digital machines will allow the school districts to more readily meet the needs of our community’s children. Hearing loss can be subtle and yet interfere with a child’s ability to learn,” says Jerry Murray, president, UPMC Altoona. “UPMC Altoona expresses its thanks to the trustees of the Mallery Trust for their assistance with this project.”

Tim Balconi, president of UPMC Altoona Foundation, said the Mallery Trust has been quietly helping the community for decades.

Last year, the trust purchased special computer notebooks and programs to assist speech pathologists and their patients who have diagnoses ranging from autism to speech problems.

Erb, Murray and Balconi presented the machines to the school district superintendents at their monthly meeting at the Greater Altoona Career & Technology Center.