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Gebbie Clinic at Syracuse University celebrates 40 years of changing lives

Ellen Abbott

For the last 40 years, the Gebbie Speech, Language Hearing Clinic at Syracuse University has been making a difference in the lives of people with speech and hearing problems across central New York. This weekend, the clinic will celebrate its 40th anniversary with the grand opening of new facilities, while showcasing the work they’ve done.

For most of us, it takes no extra effort to speak or hear. But for those with hearing and speech impediments, it’s a different story. One Syracuse University student has been stuttering since he was a young child, making going to a fast food restaurant a chore.

"I go inside and try to write the order on a piece of paper and give it to the cashier, and say 'can I have this, can I have that,'" he explained.

But after two years at the Gebbie Speech, Language Hearing Clinic at S.U., he’s tossed away that paper.

"I just need to remember to use the techniques I learned here,” he said.

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO
The Gebbie Clinic is celebrating its 40 anniversary this weekend.

The Gebbie Clinic is the training arm of S.U.’s Department of Communication and Speech and Disorders, which is also celebrating it’s 65th anniversary this year. Gebbie Director Linda Milosky says the clinic splits its time between the speech and hearing spheres. The clinic's thousands of clients range from those with age-related hearing loss to speech difficulties resulting from diseases like Parkinson's.

Milosky says research and technology in this field has increased dramatically.

“There are so many things available now that may not have been available five years ago, ten years ago, and that we can help people to not only improve their communication, but also improve the quality of their lives,” Milosky said.

One area where that technological advancement is very evident is in the world of hearing aids. David Hoalcraft of East Syracuse had been frustrated with age related hearing loss for a decade.

"You're talking to everybody else and you’re with your family and then somebody says something, and you didn’t get it," Hoalcraft said. "And instead of saying 'huh?' because you’ve been saying 'huh?' so many times, you just let it go.”

Now he’s been outfitted with a high-tech hearing aid, and it’s brought conversations into focus.

“There are settings, like a restaurant setting -- and I don’t know how these technologies work, I just know it’s effective -- that says if you’re in a crowded space, you can actually have the hearing aid set to cancel out that  background noise and catch what you truly want to hear.”

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO
A look into the Gebbie Clinic's new office.

Technology is one reason the clinic moved to south campus. The new facility features cutting-edge recording and observation systems and new clinical rooms with computer access, as well as a hearing aid fitting room that mimics real world listening environments.

The other spectrum of the clinic is research. Dozens of new therapies have been developed from something as simple as how fatigue impacts therapy for stroke victims, to using ultrasound and biofeedback in treating speech disorders. Milosky says almost 4,000 clients walk through the clinic's doors every year.

"They’re receiving services where research is directly informing those services on a day-to-day basis," Milosky said. "In other words, our researches are consulting in the clinic and applying that research as we learn new things."