Grandma Judy's Story

I am grandmother to Dylan Boehler, whose hearing loss was diagnosed at age 31/2 when a hearing test was completed as part of a speech therapy process. With anguish in their voices, I learned that his parents’ private insurance covered the cost of learning his diagnosis, but not the hearing aids that would give him the ability to advance his communication skills and his future. His parents applied to the HIKE FUND http://www.thehikefund.org/ for assistance with the purchase of these hearing aids and meeting the HIKE FUND criteria, Dylan received his first set of hearing aids from HIKE.

 

As a grandmother and a nurse I began to hunt for information as to why private insurance companies in the State of Wisconsin were not mandated to pay for the hearing aid devices that would give children the tools needed to learn as their peers of similar age.

 

My first step was to contact my Assemblyman, Jim Ott, who told me that it was ironic that I was contacting him, because he had just been made aware that Hearing Aide/Cochlear Implant Bill (SB88) was being presented at a public hearing in Madison within a few days. I knew I would have to work fast to compose a statement to read at this hearing. Dylan’s mom was unable to go to Madison due to the short notice and previous commitments, so Dylan and Grandma went to the Capitol to speak before this committee. Dylan sat next to me, confidently wearing his hearing aids, as I spoke to this room full of strangers.

 

There were about 20 individuals who signed in for that first public hearing and SB88 passed out of the Senate Insurance Committee and was then voted on unanimously by the State Senate. That was the first step of the struggle to make the Hearing Aid Bill a reality for hearing impaired kids in Wisconsin.

 

I decided we needed to form a grassroots movement would help inform others of this SB88, so I found out the names of those who signed in for that first Senate Hearing. Thanks to the Internet, we formed an advocacy group that came together in an attempt to move this bill forward along with the Assembly Bill AB-133, which was held up in the Assembly Insurance Committee for almost a year without the possibility of a public hearing.

 

Many of the 20 individuals who spoke joined in our “advocacy mission” and they told others as well. We had an email chain that many joined as they learned of our group. The I-Team and John Mercure at WTMJ 4 were contacted and with their dedicated help we were able to get the Assembly Insurance Committee to finally bring this bill for a public hearing. At that meeting there were approximately 100 families who came to tell their stories to this committee in hopes of moving AB133 to a vote. AB-133 was voted upon and then passed out of the Assembly Insurance Committee. AB-133 was never brought to the floor for a Legislative vote during the 2008 session and the Legislature ended without passing a Hearing Aid Bill.

 

Our network of advocates inundated State Senators and Legislators with emails regarding AB133 and SB88 and most elected State Officials now know about this important bill and have been given lots of reference materials on the importance of early intervention for hearing impaired children. Our advocates were determined to present educational information to Legislators and make them well aware of the importance of these Hearing Aid Bills.

 

 This web page has been developed, which can be used as a resource for those who need information about hearing loss and resources for help. It has been a wonderful experience to be a part of this dedicated group, who has pooled resources and knowledge to spread the word. They have come together as a working force, despite not getting the Hearing Aid Bill passed in 2008. Advocates will work even harder, with even more voices of concerned parents and other advocates, to make this Hearing Aide Bill a reality in the very near future.

 

It has been almost 2 years since Dylan received his first hearing aides. His “ears”, as he calls them, are his way to learning and socialization. He is like most 5-year-old boys in that he loves to play on a jungle gym and play games with other kids. He is quite social and loves school. He is learning to read short sentences in Kindergarten, knows his alphabet and numbers and is learning to print his letters. His speech is continually improving with some extra help with the sounds he has some difficulty with due to his particular hearing loss. He is learning to use his ability to listen in order to improve his speech.

 

Since he received his hearing aids early in his life, he has become very comfortable with them. He puts them in the first thing each morning and removes them each night and places them in a container for safekeeping. He even changes his batteries and is able to recognize when a battery is loosing power and needs replacement. He knows the importance of these devices so that he can learn and be a part of his everyday surroundings.

 

He loves to be in the kitchen and cook and is able to follow directions well. He cracks eggs and scrambles them and even flips pancakes with adult supervision. He takes pride in serving his breakfast creations as well. We do not know what he will be “when he grows up” but he has been given the  “hearing tools” that he will need to give him confidence to function in a hearing world.

 

Judy Wagner