Hearing Aids Are Not Cosmetic

Last Saturday afternoon, I went for a follow-up visit for the new hearing aids I got last August (2017). Okay, they aren’t that new anymore. I had rescheduled this appointment twice before (due to ME/CFS & Fibro) so I was determined to make this one. I purposely made it for a day when my husband could drive me this time. There would be no more weekday appointments if I could help it.

God bless my husband for his assistance. Saturday didn’t start off so well.

I knew what kind of day it was going to be when I rolled over that morning. I was supposed to dial into a meeting at church at 10:00 a.m. It was 11:30 a.m. when I finally got up. I felt like a truck had rolled over me. Yep, I missed it.  Surely, I could make my second obligation of the day, especially since this was the third time these wonderful folks had scheduled me. I got dressed (the best I could) and my husband got the wheelchair ready. I repeat – God bless my husband. He knew this was a day that I needed to be rolled around. We made it to the appointment on time. Yay! I was so excited to finally learn more about my not-so-new hearing aids. My usual specialist doesn’t work on Saturdays so I was hoping for someone as good as her. My wish came true. He was awesome! I learned some new things about my aids. I also discussed my tinnitus spike during my most recent GI bug last month.

“Tinnitus (TIN-ih-tus) involves the annoying sensation of hearing sound when no external sound is present. Tinnitus symptoms include these types of phantom noises in your ears: ringing, buzzing, roaring, clicking, hissing. The phantom noise may vary in pitch from a low roar to a high squeal, and you may hear it in one or both ears. In some cases, the sound can be so loud it can interfere with your ability to concentrate or hear actual sound. Tinnitus may be present all the time, or it may come and go.”  Mayo Clinic

Tinnitus is no fun. Under normal circumstances (if we want to call it that), I walk around with water and hissing noises. My hearing aids (sorta) mask those sounds. However, during my most recent GI bug, the noises were louder and also included water gushing sounds like I was in the ocean. It drove me crazy. Even with the hearing aids, I could barely hear my family talking to me. I shut off the TV in my bedroom because I couldn’t take it. I had already googled the topic and downloaded a white noise app, which didn’t help. As my gut got better so did my tinnitus. But for next time, I needed some different tricks. The specialist showed me how I can play with the bass and treble on my hearing aids using the iPhone app. Other than that, he told me that I would need to experiment with other noises. It was better than nothing. Overall, I was glad I made this visit. I’ll write more about living with hearing loss and tinnitus later.

Now onto something that’s been on my mind since the Hearing Aid Coverage for Children Act (SB 206) in Georgia was signed into law in May 2017 and became effective January 1, 2018.  Thanks to the advocacy work of two moms, private insurance companies now cover hearing aids for children up to $3,000 per aid (that’s $6,000 for both ears) every 48 months. Go, Advocates, Go! And yes, this is what hearing aids cost! I didn’t get my first pair of hearing aids until I was grown…grown.  Evaluations, fittings, maintenance, and repairs are also covered (much like eyeglasses for vision impairment).  Read and see the story here. Before this law, hearing aids were considered cosmetic devices. This is the craziest thing ever. They are not optional ear accessories. How could anyone think this?

The ability to hear is a human right…period.

Hearing loss affects 12,000 children born in the United States each year, making it the most common sensory birth defect.  When a child’s hearing needs are not identified and/or when they do not receive early intervention, special education for a child with hearing loss costs schools an additional $420,000 (over the 12 years), and has a lifetime cost of approximately $1 million per individual. Every child has the right to learn, to listen, and talk. Georgia joins a host of other states. See here.

This law does not cover self-insured companies. If you need help with getting coverage for your child, I encourage you to visit Let Georgia Hear. Again, every child deserves a fighting chance. I once had someone to tell me that he was surprised I could speak so well once he discovered I was wearing hearing aids. And another one made a joke about a word I was struggling with in front of a room full of people. Sorry, I digress…

For those (adults and children) with mild to moderate hearing loss, there’s some exciting news for you, too. Low-cost options are on the way. The Over-the Counter Hearing Act of 2017 was signed into law last August. This effort was supported by the Hearing Loss Association of America. Read more here. If you or others believe your hearing has gotten worse (ex. you’re asking folks to repeat stuff, TV volume is on 19), please go get your hearing checked. If you have a Costco or Sam’s Club membership, you can get your hearing checked for free. Of course, nothing’s free. As you know, you pay for it in your membership fees. 🙂 Check’em out there or in your doctor’s office!

I love the new bells and whistles on my hearing aids, including the app! Before my GI bug, I was in an online training program (sponsored by Gallaudet University, and American Institutes for Research with a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) studying to be a volunteer hearing assistive technology (HAT) trainer. I want to be a resource for those with hearing loss. Unfortunately, I dropped out a few weeks ago to take care of my health. The administrators said they’ll gladly have me back next year. I hope so!

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