RICHMOND (AP) — A new state program will speed the delivery of hearing aids to babies and toddlers whose families cannot pay for the devices immediately.
The Virginia Department of Health’s Hearing Aid Loan Bank will loan parents the hearing aids and FM hearing-enhancement systems for as long as six months, with the possibility of another six months depending on the family’s situation.
The program is for children younger than 3 who have hearing loss confirmed by an audiologist. Families also must be in the process of acquiring a permanent hearing aid.
The goal is to prevent children from falling behind, said Patricia Dewey, manager of Virginia’s Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program.
“When children with hearing loss receive therapy or hearing aids before the age of 6 months, we can expect their language and cognitive skills to develop on par with their peers,” she said. “Otherwise, they often experience difficulties in communication and emotional development.”
The loan bank has 54 hearing aids and 35 FM systems, which help pick up distant sounds and reduce background noises.
Hearing aids cost $700 to $3,600 each. Families often have to buy two at a time and get replacements as a child gets older. Some insurance companies will not cover the cost, and state and private funding sources have strict income requirements and often lengthy applications.