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New Pilot Program Aims To Give Free Hearing Aids To Lower-Income Arizonans

Untreated hearing loss can put older adults at risk of depression, isolation, even cognitive decline, according to some studies. But hearing aids can be expensive. Now two organizations are collaborating to improve the quality of life for low-income Arizonans experiencing hearing loss.

Michele Michaels is the hearing healthcare program manager with the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing. 

"So many people in Arizona need hearing aids and can't afford them," she said.

Because hearing aids can be very expensive. 

"I would say an average cost is going to be anywhere from $1,500 a pair to even $6,000 a pair," she said. 

Now her organization is collaborating with the College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University to pilot a free program that will provide hearing aids to lower-income Arizonans. 

"ASU came into the partnership with hearing aids, but they did not have the funding to actually do the testing, the fitting and also the aural rehabilitation part of that. And so we're coming in with that part, as well as receiving the clients, doing the screening, walking through the application process, and then referring them to ASU," Michaels said. 

She says the pilot project has been in the works for a few years. 

"So to this project, we're estimating probably about 100 people to start with, will get a hearing aid and and not just the hearing, it's going to be a hearing test, and then a hearing aid for one or two ears. And then also aural rehabilitation, that opportunity to learn more about the device, about their hearing, how to communicate better with their rights are how to advocate for themselves, how to get the assistive technology at the movie theater or the performance space that they have a right to and will help them hear better," she said. 

She says the program is geared towards those, 21 and older, on AHCCCS, which is Arizona's Medicaid provider. Michaels says AHCCCS does not pay for hearing aids.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been modified to correct the type of rehabilitation provided in the program.

Senior field correspondent Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.