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Hearing Instrument Science program breaking ground

Dr. Lawrence Brethower will soon be putting his classroom on wheels and heading down the highway, a first for Ozarks Technical Community College.

Brethower is director of the College’s Hearing Instrument Science program, just one of three programs like it in the country.

Now, he has created a version of the traditional classroom program that will be offered inside a specialized, state-of-the-art mobile transport that resembles a recreational vehicle.

Equipped with desks, instruments and other special equipment, Brethower will take the vehicle to community colleges around the state to train students in hearing instrument sciences.

In 2013, Missouri will begin requiring a two-year associate’s degree for anyone who fits customers with a hearing aid. Previously, the only training available for this career was on-the-job training, frequently on just one specific make of hearing aid.

“The population is aging and there is a growing demand for trained and licensed specialists in dealing with the instruments involved,” Brethower said.

The program offers hands-on laboratory training in a wide variety of skills, as well as clinical internships with area specialists.

Developed with funds from Gov. Jay Nixon’s Training for Tomorrow grant, the program is now funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Both grants were designed to educate Missourians in high-tech fields and get them working in growing industries.

The first group of students that started in 2010 will graduate in December; a majority of the class has already received job offers.

“A graduate can go to work for a company or be self-employed. Specialists can work their way up to a good living wage,” Brethower said, adding that self-employed specialists can make upwards of $80,000 a year.

Dr. Brethower said the program is designed for someone looking for a career change or looking to learn new skills. It’s a win for those in need of work and for those businesses needing a specialist.

“We want to produce craftspeople who will meet the challenges of the hearing impaired,” Brethower said. “Taking this statewide, with more people out of work, folks can retool themselves and learn a special skill set.”

For more information, including a video about this story, visit


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