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Cochlear Americas Partners With SHHH for The National Information and Training Center for Hearing Assistive Technology

March 2003 (Washington, DC and Denver, CO)- Cochlear Americas, manufacturer of the Cochlear Nucleus line of cochlear implants, awarded Self Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH) a $15,000 challenge grant in support of the National Information and Training Center for Hearing Assistive Technology (NITC-HAT or The Center). The Center, to be housed at the SHHH offices in Bethesda, MD, will serve as a key resource on all aspects of technology for consumers with hearing loss, their families, professionals, educators in the field, industry and government personnel, as well as media representatives, and others.

"Cochlear implant technology is far more advanced today than ever before; however, assistive technology continues to play an important role in maximizing outcomes in a variety of settings especially difficult listening environments," said Donna Sorkin, Vice President, Consumer Affairs, Cochlear Americas. "While Cochlear makes every effort to ensure that its technology is easy to use with other systems, it recognizes the importance of such a center and is pleased to be the first to partner with SHHH on this significant development. We hope that in stepping up to commit now, other companies will join us in supporting SHHH."

The Center will serve as a Washington, DC, area resource providing hands-on opportunities for learning about assistive technology and the way it stretches the benefits of hearing aids and cochlear implants. More importantly, the impact of The Center will be expanded nationwide as The Center staff promotes better understanding about hearing assistive technology, teaches others how to organize state-of-the-art demonstration centers in their communities and provides ongoing support to a variety of governmental, nonprofit, and other institutions. Technology and resources will include devices compatible with cochlear implants and hearing aids; assistive listening systems; adaptive telecommunication products and services; alerting devices; captioning tools; and more.

The Center is being established in response to the growing demand for practical information about how people with hearing loss can independently improve their access to communication. SHHH executive director, Terry Portis, says "Technology is vital for enhancing communication for people who are hard of hearing. The Center will focus on providing relevant and leading edge information as well as promote the importance of hearing assistive technology. We believe this effort will make a critical difference in improving the quality of life of thousands of people across the country."

Apart from the need to improve awareness about assistive technology, there is also a need for better understanding of policy issues that affect access to hearing aids, cochlear implants, and hearing assistive technology. The Center staff, working together with the SHHH director of state development, will conduct trainings for state and chapter leaders on a range of topics that impact technology access such as Medicare, Medicaid or other insurance reimbursement for cochlear implants and hearing aids, the utilization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to obtain effective assistive technology through a child's Individualized Education Program, and the ADA's requirement for effective communication access.

In addition to promised financial support for the new Center, Cochlear Americas has committed to providing ongoing training for The Center's personnel to ensure that they are well versed in cochlear implant technology and the opportunities for recipients to utilize assistive technology in concert with their Nucleus cochlear implant systems.

Self Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH) is currently establishing a National Advisory Board, which will include industry representatives and experts in the field to provide support and guidance for Center activities.

About SHHH
Headquartered in Bethesda, MD, Self Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH) impacts accessibility, public policy, research, awareness, and service delivery on a national and global level. Through its 250 chapters and 14 state organizations, SHHH is a national support network that makes a difference in peoples' lives through information, connection and representation. Their primary message is that hearing loss is a challenge you can overcome, you do not have to hide hearing loss, and you do not have to face hearing loss alone. For more information go to their website, http://www.hearingloss.org/.

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