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‘Clinic on wheels’ will offer important tests and services for children, especially in rural areas.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – UNC Health is rolling out a new mobile clinic that will provide important hearing tests and speech assessments to children across the state, especially in rural areas.

The goal of the Otolaryngology Mobile Speech and Hearing Clinic is to ensure that all children have access to critical diagnostic audiology and speech language pathology services. The clinic will focus on reaching children in rural areas and vulnerable populations.

“UNC Health is proud to provide important hearing and speech services for children across North Carolina,” said Dr. Wendell Yarbrough, Chair of the Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery at UNC School of Medicine. “This ‘clinic on wheels’ is another way we’re working to improve access and care for all North Carolinians.”

An artist’s rendering of the new mobile clinic.

Hearing loss impacts up to 3 out of every 1,000 children with potentially devasting effects on a child’s communication skills and educational development. Children living in rural areas experience more pronounced negative health and developmental consequences related to hearing loss because of limited access to care.

Like many health conditions early treatment for hearing loss, including specialized testing after a failed newborn screening, is vital. Yet there is limited availability of this testing by those qualified to treat children in rural areas, which puts this population of children at a significant disadvantage.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35.1 percent of children born in North Carolina in 2021 who failed their newborn hearing screening were lost to follow up or could not be reached. A comprehensive diagnostic evaluation with a pediatric audiologist is crucial to timely care following a failed hearing screening. This staggering statistic places North Carolina in the bottom half of all states securing diagnostic testing needed after a failed newborn hearing screen.

The mobile clinic’s team expects to be on the road three days a week. The clinic will have two exam spaces.

UNC Hospitals Audiology will partner with UNC Faculty Physicians to staff the unit. UNC Health entities outside of the Triangle will partner with this team to provide parking and facility access, as well as serve as a patient referral resource for the unit. For the launch, these entities include UNC Health Caldwell, UNC Health Blue Ridge, UNC Health Southeastern and UNC Health Lenoir. There is an additional partnership with Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in Jacksonville, N.C., with more partners on the way.

The clinic is also working with the NC Department of Public Instruction to identify schools that do not have access to consistent audiology care. Eventually, the team will partner with local health departments and community centers to determine where else there may be a need for the clinic’s services.

For more information about the Mobile Speech and Hearing Clinic, visit


About UNC Health

UNC Health is a state entity and an affiliated enterprise of the University of North Carolina system, comprised of 15 hospitals, 19 hospital campuses and more than 900 clinics along with the clinical patient care programs of the UNC School of Medicine (SOM). It exists to improve the health and well-being of North Carolinians and others we serve and to further the teaching mission of the University of North Carolina SOM. UNC Health provided more than $800 million in Uncompensated Charity Care during the past five years. Our hospitals have received numerous awards and recognition for quality care, patient safety, and the overall patient experience.