David chats with Tracy Cox, a colleague on Self-Help's Development team.
Hearing loss often comes gradually, at least mine did. It started with an increase in how often I would ask people to repeat sentences. Over time, the problem worsened. When a colleague asked me to turn off my beeping watch—which I couldn’t hear at all—I had to concede that my hearing needed a boost. I started looking into hearing aids.
And that’s when I got sticker shock. Hearing aids typically cost $1,500 to $3,500 for each ear. I also learned that delaying getting hearing aids can lead to hearing cognition atrophy. Then it’s too late for hearing aids to really help. I was lucky to be able to afford hearing aids in a timely manner. And it’s made a big difference in my life in surprising ways, most notably increasing my ability to concentrate.
For many people, the out-of-pocket cost of hearing aids puts them out of reach. And delaying the purchase often makes matters worse.
Here at Self-Help, I have been an advocate for the loans we make to help families buy assistive technology (AT) devices. These loans can cover virtually any product that helps a person cope with a disability. The most common needs are hearing aids and modifications for cars and homes.
Now, thanks to a federal grant of $665,000, we are expanding our AT device financing. The grant funds are helping subsidize loans so that we can make them more quickly and more affordably.
To help identify people who need loans, Self-Help is partnering with the NC Assistive Technology Program (NCATP) and other organizations serving NC residents with disabilities. NCATP is a division of the NC Department of Health and Human Services. We are particularly grateful to NCATP Director Tammy Koger for helping us craft the grant request to highlight the urgent needs and Self-Help’s ability to help respond.
The grant funds will also help support NCATP’s work assessing specific AT needs for individuals. NCATP has ten AT program offices across the state and, when appropriate, NCATP staff refer individuals to Self-Help. Individuals can also contact Self-Help directly to learn more about the AT financing program.
If this program interests you, there are two ways you can help. First, spread the word about the loans. Second, consider serving on our Assistive Technology Finance Advisory Committee. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to find out more. I promise I will hear you!
David Beck is Self-Help’s Director of Policy