New law offers help for hearing aids

BOSTON – Gov. Deval Patrick signed a bill into law yesterday that will give some financial relief to children in need of hearing aids.
The new law mandates that insurance carriers cover up to $2,000 of the cost of any single hearing aid for minors up to age 21. The Massachusetts Hearing Aids for Children Coalition says parents often pay out of pocket for hearing aids prescribed by doctors, which are replaced at least every three to five years.
According to the Coalition, 150 children born in Massachusetts each year are diagnosed with hearing loss.
Bill Corwin, president of Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech, formerly known as the Clarke School for the Deaf, said this is a big help to families across the Commonwealth and will help children during the crucial early stages of language development.
“If we can give kids access, early on, to sound, and work with parents, they are better able to be part of the mainstream in school,” he said.
Giving young children the ability to hear sounds aids in speech development sooner.
“We know providing access to hearing aids early on will reduce costs to taxpayers later on,” said Corwin, referring to special education costs.  “One of the results of this bill would be to reduce special education costs.”
The Clarke Schools’ campus in Northampton is attended by students from all over western Massachusetts with various ranges of hearing ability.  The Schools’ mission is teaching children who are deaf and hard of hearing how to listen and talk using the latest technology, such as hearing aids.
“There is a range of hearing loss,” said Corwin, “from mild to moderate, to severe and profound.”
He said hearing aids generally help those with mild to moderate loss, while those with severe and profound loss can often be helped with surgical procedures.
“The benefits of this law are going to be significant,” said Corwin. “This is going to maximize these kids’ potential.”
The new law would also require the state’s group insurance commission to cover hearing aids for children of state employees.

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