Five ways to give the gift of hearing
Here’s a fact of nature — the longer you live, the more likely you are to develop hearing loss. Statistics from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimate 48 million Americans have some form of hearing loss. Unfortunately, only 20 percent of them will seek treatment, even though it’s likely they would benefit from wearing hearing devices.
Why? Some don’t want to wear hearing aids and others don’t realize their hearing has deteriorated, but many don’t have access to good hearing healthcare or the financial resources to purchase hearing devices.
Untreated hearing loss has been linked to a variety of other health problems, including depression, stress and dementia and the World Health Organization has identified hearing loss as one of the world’s major health problems. How can you help? We’ve identified five ways you can give the gift of hearing — to those you love as well as to those you may never meet.
1. Advocate for hearing health
Shine a light on hearing health by educating others about the issue.
2. Contribute to hearing health foundations
As you consider which organizations to support financially this year, don’t forget those which support hearing health. In addition to providing hearing devices like hearing aids and cochlear implants, your donation can help fund research projects, provide education and help train service animals for those who are deaf or have hearing loss.
If you like to keep your money local, you may be able to contribute to one of these efforts:
Nationally, there are many foundations and charities you can support, including:
Whether you decide to give locally or nationally, be sure to do your research. Visit the agency’s website and, if possible, ask questions about how your money or in-kind donation will be used.
3. Donate used hearing aids
If you wear hearing aids and are ready to upgrade your existing devices, consider donating your old hearing aids to an organization which will refurbish and fit them to someone who couldn’t otherwise afford them.
Locally, check with your Lions Clubs. In addition to their hearing preservation program, some clubs also administer a hearing aid recycling program (HARP). Also, check local hearing clinics. Some refurbish used hearing aids for their patients who can’t afford the cost on their own.
If you can’t find an organization in your community, you can send used hearing aids to Hearing Charities of America. They collect used hearing aids regardless of age or condition and revamp them for qualified applicants.
4. Help someone with hearing loss find resources
One of the best ways you can give the gift of hearing is by helping someone get treatment for their hearing loss. Many may not know that financial help is available and delay treatment because they just don’t think they can afford it.
The most important step in this process is to get their hearing evaluated by a hearing healthcare professional. (To find a clinic in your community, visit Healthy Hearing's online directory.) Once a diagnosis has been made and a treatment recommended, then you can begin looking for the appropriate financial resources to fund the solution. Look for hearing centers which offer free hearing evaluations on site or at community events, especially during Better Hearing Month in May or National Audiology Awareness Month in October.
After the evaluation, ask the hearing health professional if their clinic offers payment plans or other financial resources for patients who qualify. If not, check with the foundations, charities and organizations we’ve mentioned above. And, if the person you’re helping is a student or still employed, they may qualify for free or reduced-cost hearing devices from the vocational rehabilitation program in your state.
5. Be a hearing health role model for your family
Kids are great imitators, so what better way to get them to practice good hearing health than by modeling it yourself.