Arizona’s HEAR for Kids Program Hearing Aid Loaner Program Eases Burden for Families of Infants and Children Features
Features  |   January 01, 2010
Arizona’s HEAR for Kids Program
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Hearing Aids, Cochlear Implants & Assistive Technology / Features
Features   |   January 01, 2010
Arizona’s HEAR for Kids Program
The ASHA Leader, January 2010, Vol. 15, 5-6. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR4.15012010.5
The ASHA Leader, January 2010, Vol. 15, 5-6. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR4.15012010.5
The EAR Foundation of Arizona started the HEAR for Kids program, a hearing aid loaner program, in 1999 in response to the needs of infants—and their families—identified with hearing loss.
Each year, HEAR for Kids provides more than 200 hearing aid loans for infants and children in Arizona with newly identified hearing loss.
The state’s voluntary newborn hearing screening program, part of the state’s early hearing detection and intervention program, began in 2000. Many families of infants identified with hearing loss are surprised by the high cost of hearing aids, and need time to apply for state services, work with their insurance company to obtain coverage for hearing aids, or find other funding. At the same time, audiologists don’t want to delay amplification—but have assessment results that may be less than perfect because of the age of the patient. And although many clinics have their own device loan program, they do not maintain a full spectrum of hearing aid options within their own practice. Together, these factors point to the growing need for a robust hearing aid loaner program.
At least 20 states have responded to this need by starting hearing aid loan banks, according to a 2004 survey by the National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management, all with a wide variety of programs and eligibility criteria. In Arizona, HEAR for Kids provides a large pool of advanced-technology hearing aids that are available to any child. Because the need for loaner aids is the same for families with private insurance or state funding, there is no financial component to this part of the program.
The Arizona program is funded through an annual renewable grant from St. Lukes’s Health Initiatives, a public foundation in Arizona, which provides more than 75% of program funds. The balance comes from private donations, fundraising events, and grants. The EAR Foundation of Arizona manages the HEAR for Kids program.
The program is driven by the needs of the families, and hearing aids are purchased as requested by the audiologist for a specific child. When hearing aids are returned, they are logged into an online database that allows registered audiologists to view available hearing aids. If the audiologist doesn’t find the hearing aid needed for a specific child, the audiologist can request that new aids be purchased.
Hearing aids typically are loaned for six months, although exceptions frequently are made for families that need extra time. For families considering a cochlear implant for their child, the loan period can extend up to a year or more. The audiologist also can trade one set of loaners foranother to try different hearing aids in search of better results or in response to unique circumstances.
The program typically will cover earmolds until the family has found other resources, and infants often need multiple sets of earmolds during the loan period. Families with financial means often make donations to the program and pay for their own earmolds and services.
Because hearing aid technology changes frequently and small children are hard on loaner hearing aids, each year approximately 50 new aids are added to the pool. These aids replace those that are flushed, chewed, thrown, fed to the dog, or outdated. The pool of aids is constantly changing; for example, last year seven new Baha devices, which can be worn on a softband, were added. The EAR Foundation has accounts with many manufacturers for convenience, but will purchase from others when requested.
Audiologists working in hospital clinics, private practices, otology practices, and early intervention programs order hearing aids that are charged to the EAR Foundation account; the aids are shipped directly to the audiologist, usually within 48 hours of an online request. Larger practices have access to a system for ordering earmolds that minimize delays in processing requests. Sites may use HEAR for Kids with other programs, such as the Oticon pediatric loaner program, or to supplement their own stock of loaner aids.
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January 2010
Volume 15, Issue 1