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Services are scarce for hard of hearing, late deafened, and oral deaf people

There are about 28 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States, or about 1 in 10 Americans. This is the most common disability in our country, but it receives little attention compared to more visible disabilities.

Of the Americans with a hearing loss, over 90% are hard of hearing. Of those who are medically deaf, the majority are late deafened and oral deaf, rather than culturally deaf. Yet services for hard of hearing, late deafened, and oral deaf people are almost nonexistent. Almost every agency that that serves the hearing loss population has “hard of hearing” somewhere in their name or mission statement. But nearly all provide services primarily or exclusively for the culturally Deaf.

Have you ever been offered aural rehabilitation services? I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that you haven’t. The lack of these services is indicative of the general lack of services for people with hearing loss!

November 2006 – “Hear the World” to launch in January

October 2005 – Is there a place close to you where you can go to try out all the various assistive technology that can make your life so much easier? If not, maybe your organization can set one up. Here are complete instructions on doing so, including letters to sponsors, questionnaires for visitors, a sample budget, and everything else you’ll need.

September 2005 – People with hearing loss focus on hearing aids, CART, and possibly ALDs, and miss so many other important resources. Here are Cathy Kooser’s thoughts on the subject.

October 2001 – Bill Proposes Hearing Benefits Under Medicare

Read an open letter from Nancy Kingsley as published in USA-L News.

We Need More Than Hearing Aids

Editor: I was a bit surprised by some of the responses to our recent questionnaire, or rather by the lack of responses that dealt with what I consider to be important OHL issues. Respondents focused on movie captioning, CART, and the need to educate OHL folks, services providers, and the general public. NOT mentioned were a bunch of issues that are typically covered in a “Living with Hearing Loss” workshop. Here to provide additional information is Cathy Kooser (cathykooserhha@sbcglobal.net), who teaches two-day workshops on a regular basis.

One thing I find particularly interesting is how we automatically jump to the need for hearing aids, ALDs, CART (communication access) etc. and do not recognize how we can also help ourselves by learning appropriate communication strategies. Now, I’m not suggesting that these communication aids are not important, because they are. However, quite often, we misunderstand because WE use ineffective communication strategies, therefore everyone around us also uses them. For example, simply stating, “what?” when we don’t understand. We don’t identify the source of the communication breakdown, nor what needs to be corrected, nor do we inform the person who we are communicating with what our needs are. Even the “elite” of the oral hearing loss population is ignorant of strategies that can be used to help them communicate better.

We are TREMENDOUSLY ignorant of the psychosocial ramifications of hearing loss. The vast majority of us do not recognize how our hearing loss has affected us emotionally, nor how it has affected our relationships. We don’t make the connection between our hearing loss and our depression, between our hearing loss and our anxiety, between our hearing loss and our low self-esteem, etc. We even don’t recognize how our hearing loss is tied into our physical and mental exhaustion.

We are vastly uneducated about hearing loss and how it affects us period!!!! It will take far more than just communication access to get us to where we all need to be, in order to continue to live productive and happy lives. To accept the reality of our lives as people living with hearing loss.

I’m reminded of a comment I received at the end of the 2-day workshop on hearing loss I just completed teaching last Friday. The gentlemen, who happens to be a journalist, and who we might consider one of the “elite” in oral hearing loss because he has taken steps to help himself deal with his hearing loss by contacting the vocational rehabilitation center in his city and then attending this workshop as suggested by his voc rehab counselor, is quoted as making the following statement “I felt as though, in two days, I learned an incredible amount about a world I lived in for 30 years, a world of which I was profoundly ignorant.”

I’m in agreement with the woman who mentioned the one stop shopping. I work with ENT doctors, and audiologists who saw the need to recognize the emotional aspect of hearing loss as well. Therefore, we are able to provide for all of our patients needs in one spot.

Bill Proposes Hearing Aid Benefits Under Medicare

October 2001

Editor: It looks like we’re finally seeing significant movement on the issue of insurance coverage for hearing aids. A couple of states had such legislation take effect on October 1, and other states are considering similar legislation. But the real challenge is to get Medicare to provide hearing aid benefits, both because so many seniors need hearing aids, and because private insurers so often follow Medicare’s lead in determining benefits. Note that this is just a proposed bill right now, but it’s an indication that the tide is turning. Here are excerpts from the press release.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) commends Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL) for introduction of H.R. 2934, the Medicare Aural Rehabilitation and Hearing Aid Coverage Act of 2001. H.R. 2934 would provide Medicare coverage for hearing aids and aural rehabilitation services by audiologists and physicians for seniors with hearing loss.

“Congressman Foley has demonstrated vital leadership by addressing this important issue,” said John Bernthal, Ph.D., CCC-SLP/A, and President of ASHA. “Not since the efforts of Claude Pepper has there been a serious discussion on the need for Medicare to cover necessary services for hearing loss. With over 28 million Americans who are currently deaf or hard of hearing and the impending influx of baby boomers who will be eligible for the Medicare program by the end of this decade, our nation must begin to work through equitable coverage policies for hearing aids and aural rehabilitation services in a concerted manner by both public and private insurance payers.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, age-related hearing loss affects 30 to 35 percent of the population between the ages of 65 and 75, and 40 percent of the population over the age of 75.

Currently, Medicare is specifically prohibited from paying for hearing aids by federal law. H.R. 2934 would repeal this prohibition and add hearing aids to the list of covered durable medical equipment. H.R. 2934 would provide new hearing aids every three years as needed by Medicare beneficiaries.

H.R. 2934 also would provide Medicare coverage for aural rehabilitation services so that Medicare beneficiaries can receive needed ongoing care to optimize their hearing with the use of a hearing aid. Covered services under the bill include: a comprehensive audiologic assessment to determine the appropriateness of a hearing aid for the individual; fitting and adjustments to the hearing aids; instruction on the use of the hearing aids; and aural rehabilitation including counseling on hearing loss, speech reading and auditory training.

ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for more than 103,000 audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists.

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