I believe that objectivity for journalists means, most of the time, keeping our thoughts to ourselves. We report the news, we don’t choose sides.
However, when I saw a bill pending in the House, H.266, which would require Medicaid, state employees’ insurance and large insurance plans to provide coverage for hearing aids, and seek federal approval for small group coverage, too, I felt a personal connection.
I am deaf.
On April 16, 2019, I learned that I had experienced sudden-onset hearing loss in my left ear. There’s no known cause and no cure.
Deafness is often called an “invisible disability.” From looking at me, at least if my hair is down, you would never know I have a cochlear implant, or that without it I have zero percent hearing in that ear. I am a young(ish), professional woman who can do most things, thankfully, but this is a factor in every move I make, every day.
While I was incredibly fortunate to receive a cochlear implant last year, I used a hearing aid, which in my case was ultimately unsuccessful, for about six months.
It cost nearly $4,000.
My provider did not utilize payment plans. This didn’t include their own costs for service, which was ongoing.
This was, of course, a major case of sticker shock, and I was so fortunate to have a sister and parents who rallied to help.
I’m forever indebted to my amazing team of otorhinolaryngologists, surgeons, audiologists and everyone else involved in giving me back a sliver of “normalcy.”
But I know this isn’t the case for everyone.
In my 34 years, I’ve learned firsthand that hearing is vital — I will forever live with the effects of my deafness. I’ve also learned that medical care costs a lot.
Had I not had the privilege I do, I could have been in a very different situation.
Many older people, for example, are living on fixed incomes and cannot afford the top-of-the-line model (which by the way, works better), so they suffer, mishearing and misunderstanding their families and friends.
Trust me on this one.
They miss milestones and having to deal with isolation, loneliness and depression — something we all have learned about in recent months and can empathize with.
Why is it a question, whether people should be able to hear? I will never understand that.
Again, I want to acknowledge my privilege and not take for granted how lucky I have been. I’m speaking out for those who aren’t.
This bill, which you can read in full online at legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2022/H.266, would be life-changing for so many people. It would have been for me.
I would call it a benefit, but really it’s not — hearing is a right, not a luxury.
Contact your local representatives and tell them why you support this bill, on behalf of people like me.
Jessie Forand is the managing editor of the five weekly Vermont Community Newspaper Group publications.
A petition supporting this bill can be found online at https://bit.ly/3lTIblW.