I am losing my hearing. It sucks, but it isn’t the end of the world. Hearing aids make a huge difference and allow me to hear better. They don’t solve the problem, but they definitely help. The problem is that they are expensive. Even with health insurance. Insurance companies are required to cover hearing aids for children. There is no such requirement for adults. My hearing aids are 4 1/2 years old. The average lifespan of a good hearing aid is 5-8 years. The warranty expires (at least on mine) after 3 years. Technology is improving very quickly in the area of improving hearing aids (which is good), but it means that the good pair of hearing aids I bought 4 1/2 years ago is not nearly as good as a pair (for the same price) were I to buy them today.
After school let out I had my yearly hearing test. The results were disappointing. I have lost more of my hearing. Honestly, this is not unexpected. But it is still difficult to have the evidence.
Dr. Baker, my audiologist, has been talking to me about seeing a counselor at the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) for the last several years. DVR has a program to help people pay for hearing aids, if their hearing loss impacts their ability to work. Basically, if you need hearing aids to get or keep your job, it is possible that they can help you.
In a world without Chris’ cancer, we could easily afford the 3+ grand out-of-pocket cost for new hearing aids. It would have also helped if I hadn’t been unemployed and then only working part-time for the last year. But our medical bills are difficult to swallow. The year that I was laid-off, we had to change insurance mid-year and we ended up having a total maximum out-of-pocket (before we were covered at 100%) of $18,000. It is what it is.
But it makes finding 3+ grand (before the insurance kicks in to cover 90% of my hearing aids) difficult. Dr. Baker felt that with Chris’ cancer and my increased hearing loss, DVR would be able to help. I’ve been putting it off for, well, ever. It is hard enough to admit that I need help when I talk with my family and friends, admitting to a government agency that I need help was beyond difficult.
However, hearing aids with Bluetooth capacity would make things MUCH easier. There is also technology that would allow me to have a device that I could use in meetings that would put the speech directly in my ear (so less distortion). And the newer hearing aids are just better. So, I finally swallowed my pride and made an appointment.
But I really didn’t want to go. I was anxious about driving there (only about a 40 minute drive) as I had never been to that part of Denver before. I was especially anxious after I got their questionnaire in the mail asking if I had felony convictions or was a drug/alcohol addict.
I began to relax a little bit when I realized I would pass Porter Hospital (where the boys go to Kids Alive) and through the University of Denver Campus. But my GPS showed I still had a way to go, so I became anxious again.
When I pulled into the parking lot, I relaxed a little. It was a normal office building stuck between several strip malls. I entered the building and was warmly greeted by the secretary. I took a seat. There was only one other person in the waiting room; she had hearing aids and was dressed nicely. The employees were all in business casual/summer business attire in Colorado. I relaxed a little bit more.
My counselor came out to meet me and bring me back to her office. She was very relaxed and smiled easily. I had all my paperwork together (like I was supposed to have) and she commented on how organized I was. She took my resume (one of the things I was requested to bring) and saw I had a Master’s degree. She asked about our monthly household income. And then she looked confused.
As I wrote, we make enough that my hearing aids should be do-able. But Chris’ cancer-related medical expenses make it difficult. Especially when his treatment is continual (scans every other month, doctor visits and blood work every month, medications). So, I took a deep breath and explained that there were extenuating circumstances. I told her about Chris’ cancer and the medical bills, my unemployment, and part-time employment. She asked how much I thought we owed in medical bills and I gave her an estimate.
She told me that I would get help from DVR. She said that if anyone needed help (and a break) it was me. That people like me (with Master’s Degrees, etc.) didn’t come in very often and I deserved to have the help. She filled out the forms with me (on her computer) and asked me to get back to her with a total of the medical bills. I didn’t really want to find out how much we owe (we owe different people, so it is not totaled and I don’t look at the total amounts, I just write my checks and mail them in). I went home and made the calls to have everything outstanding figured in. Ugh. It was very close to my estimate. I emailed my counselor and she emailed me back with paperwork to sign and return.
I was authorized by DVR to get new hearing aids (the actual hearing aids were decided upon by Dr. Baker) and assistive technology (I’m getting a streamer). Dr. Baker emailed me to let me know that they got the authorization and to come in to pick out a color (for the aids) while she was on vacation.
I guess I learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes asking for and admitting you need help is an easy thing. My counselor was amazing (she has a degree in social work or something like that). She made me feel at ease and was extremely sympathetic. She didn’t fit any of the stereotypes I had. She was happy and willing to help (yes, I know that is her job but still I expected some animosity because I felt I was asking for a handout).
My new hearing aids are in. We are waiting for my custom-made ear molds to come back so we can fit my hearing aids properly. It should be soon though. I can’t wait!
I cannot even begin to express my gratitude to Dr. Baker (and her staff) for everything they’ve done for me. Especially, Dr. Davlin and Dr. Baker for continuing to encourage me to contact DVR. You have been compassionate and I really appreciate it!
To Anne at DVR – thank you for making things easy. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your warmth and understanding.