Financial Aid Resources for Hearing Aids
by Anna Karkovska, M.A.
Access to sound right from the start is critical for children who are deaf and hard of hearing to develop listening and spoken language. Yet, families may find the cost of hearing technology a challenge. AG Bell’s groundbreaking 2013 Family Needs Assessment survey found that hearing technology and related services—including hearing aids, auditory-verbal/speech-language therapy services and assistive listening devices—were the three items families rated as the most significant financial barriers. There are a number of resources available to provide assistance with the cost of hearing technology.
State mandates for hearing aids have increased over the years. There are now 20 states that have passed mandates for hearing aid coverage. All of these states require health benefit plans to cover hearing aids for children. Only three states—Arkansas, New Hampshire and Rhode Island— require coverage for both children and adults. One (Wisconsin) also requires coverage for cochlear implants for children. State mandates vary with regard to the amount of coverage, benefit period and provider qualifications. The American Speech-Language- Hearing Association maintains a website with brief descriptions and links to each statute: www.asha.org/advocacy/state/issues/ha_reimbursement/.
AG Bell Resources and Information
The AG Bell Listening and Spoken Language Knowledge Center provides information and resources in the Families tab of the website, which offers parents with a starting point to identify sources of financial assistance for hearing technology as well as listening and spoken languages services. Organizations such as AUDIENT, The HIKE Fund and Miracle-Ear® Foundation help families with financial difficulties to get access to hearing devices.
AG Bell offers a variety of Financial Aid programs for families of children with hearing loss at various stages of their development: from birth through 12th grade. For a complete list of these programs and resources offered by other organizations, visit the Families tab at ListeningandSpokenLanguage.org, click on Financial Aid Programs and explore the links in this section.
Under the same Families tab, parents can visit the Family Resources section, which provides a variety of resources for and by parents, including tips from parents for getting organized to ensure their child’s success and a guide for parents to understand their insurance benefits and exclusions as well as other programs available to their child(ren).
Hearing Aid Loaner Banks
Immediate access to hearing aids is often curtailed by cost or delays in insurance or third-party approvals. Hearing aid loaner banks fill the gap by providing access to appropriate amplification while families obtain approval or financial assistance for hearing technology.
The National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management (NCHAM) at Utah State University maintains a list of hearing aid loaner banks in the United States. Through a 2011 survey, NCHAM identified hearing aid loaner banks in 26 states and territories. The center regularly updates this information, which is available at www.infanthearing.org/ha-loaner/index.html.
The Oticon Pediatrics Loaner Bank Program makes hearing aids available for children, birth to 3 years old, who are in need of immediate amplification when amplification is not readily available and the family is typically waiting for third party reimbursement approval or for a cochlear implant evaluation. Oticon also provides an Information and Application Booklet on its website. Visit www.pro.oticonusa.com/pediatrics/clinical-support/oticon-resources/loaner-bank.aspx for more information.
Other Organizations and Resources
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has an extensive section on its website—Funding for Audiology Services and Hearing Aids—which provides links to federal, state and local funding sources, agencies and programs; funding plans; and hearing aid loaner banks. The organization also provides advice to parents on working with their employer to cover speech, language and hearing services for themselves and their child(ren) through the company’s health plan. It also describes the “ideal” health plan coverage for hearing, speech and language benefits. Visit www.asha.org/public/coverage/audfundingresources/ to access all of this information.
The Hearing Loss Association of America also maintains a list of programs and foundations providing hearing aid financial assistance for both children and adults, which is available at www.hearingloss.org/content/financial-assistance-programs-foundations.
The Better Hearing Institute has compiled a list of multiple charitable foundations, private organizations, insurance plans, corporate benefits and government programs that help people across the country gain access to hearing aids. The list is available at www.betterhearing.org/hearingpedia/hearing-loss-resources/financial-assistance.
This list is not extensive and is a starting point for identifying resources. There are other public programs such as Medicaid and state vocational rehabilitation agencies as well as private organizations that can provide support or additional referrals to local resources.
Source: Volta Voices (2014), Volume 21, Issue 3