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The Jamie Stuart Hearing Empowerment Center

Karen Zupko understands the challenges of living with someone who has hearing problems.  But she also knows what can happen when a loved one addresses hearing problems.

“It’s so isolating when people can’t hear.  They turn into themselves,” she says. 

Her late husband Jamie Stuart had hearing problems he didn’t fully address for many years.  But when he came to UI Audiology for treatment and got his hearing aids, “it made a big difference,” she remembered.

“Coming here for treatment to Jamie was not like going to the dentist,” she recalled of his experience receiving audiology care. “It was a life-changer,” she said. 

The care Stuart received at UI made a significant difference in his and Zupko’s quality of life.  The couple lived large, traveling the globe, undertaking adventurous activities together, and enjoying life.    And Stuart’s hearing aids made many of their years together even richer.

Stuart, an Air Force fighter pilot, musician, and corporate lawyer who served on boards of top companies and leading nonprofits in the Chicagoland area, died in 2008.  Today he is memorialized in a room dedicated to auditory rehabilitation for UI Audiology’s implant patients.

While Stuart’s hearing problems did not require implants, his and Zupko’s experience with UI Audiology was so positive that she wanted to dedicate his memory to helping those with implants and the rehabilitative services they require.

Zupko, whose donation made the renovation and upgrade of the Jamie Stuart Hearing Empowerment Center in the UIC Illinois Eye & Ear Infirmary possible, participated in the dedication ceremony for the Center June 20. 

A founder and president of her own health care consulting company and board member of the Now Hear This! Foundation, Zupko has longstanding ties to UI and the Division of Audiology.

Now UI Audiology patients have a room they can use for therapy and training, working with an audiologist or speech-language pathologist (and sometimes by themselves) as part of their rehabilitation after a hearing aid, cochlear, or other implant.

The facilities and services of the Center “take care a step further,” said David Klodd, Ph.D., Head of Audiology.  “This is about giving the patient hearing therapy to make the greatest use of the hearing devices we implant.”  Some of that treatment includes speech-language pathology, where patients learn to connect their voice to their enhanced hearing abilities.

“Often speech-language pathologists aren’t involved with other implant programs.  Some patients don’t have computers, some don’t have DVDs,” Dr. Klodd added.  ‘This means a lot to them.”

Many of the attendees at the dedication ceremony knew or had treated Stuart, and remembered him fondly.

“He was a “wonderful man, great professional and talented musician who was a great friend,” said J. Regan Thomas, M.D., Head of the Department.  He credited Stuart and Zupko for their “tremendous support “of the Department and University over the years.