Reprinted from Daily Herald http://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/article_6e6b92f5-15ea-57dd-ae94-44ec9dda31e2.html by Heidi Toth
Hearing aids have now joined soda cans, cell phones and bald tires on the list of “stuff you have no use for but somebody else does.”
Timpanogos Hearing and Balance, a hearing center with offices in Utah County, and the Utah Department of Health are collecting old hearing aids that are cleaned up, refurbished and then donated to people who need hearing aids but can’t afford them.
That list is longer than people might think. Grandpa’s old hearing aid probably will end up in the ear of a working man who’s supporting his children or a teenager with a hearing disability.
“There’s a huge need, actually,” Kim Garrett, the Timpanogos practice manager, said.
They started collecting hearing aids several years ago in concert with America Helps, a nonprofit organization that sends old hearing aids to people in Africa who need them. That’s still a part of their mission, but Garrett said after a while they realized a significant number of people in Utah County needed hearing aids but couldn’t pay for them. So now the company focuses its work close to home.
That need isn’t just that people are struggling with rising medical costs; it’s also that more people are experiencing hearing loss at a younger age. Garrett said the fastest-growing range of people developing hearing problems are younger than 55 years old.
You can blame the earbuds for that one.
While there are many reasons for hearing loss, the trend of cranking the volume on MP3 players plays a significant role in younger people losing their hearing, Stephanie McVicar, an audiologist with the Utah Department of Health, said. The sensitive hearing organs can suffer permanent damage from overexposure to loud music, explosions and other loud noises.
Those are the people Timpanogos Hearing and Balance is focused on helping. The health department has geared its donation efforts toward children who are born with hearing disabilities. Utah has about a 98 percent rate of screening newborns for hearing loss, which can be passed down genetically or be the result of an infection the mother contracted while pregnant. However, not all of the families who find out their baby has a hearing disability have the means to fix it, as many private health insurers don’t cover it, and the state only pays for those families who are on Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Now, thanks to donations of reused hearing aids, more children up to 5 years old are getting fitted for hearing aids quickly, often before they start school.
“Oh my goodness, it’s huge, particularly in a child,” McVicar said of the impact of being able to hear properly. “The sooner these kiddos get fit, the better off they’re going to be.”
A child’s managing audiologist puts the child on a waiting list and, if the family meets the financial criteria, the child is then fitted from the stock of donated hearing aids. That stock works for all but the most severe cases, she said.
Any hearing aids can be donated; those that don’t work for hearing loss in children can be returned to manufacturers for credit.
Timpanogos Hearing and Balance also will take any hearing aids, Garrett said. They work with a company that adjusts the hearing aids so each meets a person’s needs, and all but the old hearing aids can be refurbished. Those that cannot be adjusted are sent to Africa, since the villages they’re going to do not have the capability to do the adjusting.
Timpanogos Hearing and Balance collects year-round and during Christmas selects people from all of those nominated to receive hearing aids. To nominate someone, go to www.utahhearingaids.com.
Timpanogos American Fork office: (801) 763-0724
Timpanogos Spanish Fork office: (801) 853-8153
Children’s Hearing and Speech Services: (801) 584-8215
You can nominate yourself or someone else for this program by going to http://www.utahhearingaids.com/christmas_form.php