New Insurance Benefits for Hearing Aids in Washington State

By Becky Montgomery

doctor in white coat with stethoscope stands to the right side, leaving a sky blue background to the left. he is cupping his hands around a silhouette image of a man, woman, and two children.

Great news! As of January 1, 2024, thousands of people in Washington State can finally use their health insurance to get hearing health care, thanks to a new state law.

And the required insurance benefit is generous: up to $3000 per ear every three years. This amount is enough for most people to buy the hearing aids they need — most people pay a bit less than $2400, according to Hearing Aid Price Tracker. This coverage is a huge boost, especially for people with hearing loss who would be helped by working with a skilled audiologist and added enhancements like Bluetooth.

Who does the new law cover?

The new law benefits thousands of people in Washington:

  • People employed by companies who aren’t self-insured and who have more than 50 employees
  • Workers in the public school system
  • Employees of the State of Washington in a position covered by the State Employees Benefits Board.

With this new law, Washington State is much closer to ensuring that everyone who needs a hearing instrument can easily get one. We still have a few gaps in insurance coverage: Seniors who have Medicare but not a Medicare Advantage plan, people who buy insurance without a group (such individual policies on the Washington HealthPlan Finder), and people who work for small businesses that do not offer insurance coverage.

What’s next?

Thanks to the advocacy of HLAA-WA and others, our state legislators took steps in 2023 to close some of those gaps, although it won’t be instantaneous. With the passage of Senate Bill 5338, the State of Washington Insurance Commissioner will request a change to our state’s Essential Health Benefits (EHB). The EHB spells out what every health insurance plan must offer, or at least all of the plans that the state oversees (for example, the state does not oversee Medicare or military health plans). It is likely that federal officials will approve the request, and that on January 1, 2026, the new coverage would start for individual and some group healthcare plan providers, including policies offered on the Washington State HealthPlan Finder.

Thank you!

At HLAA-WA, our members and community played a huge role in getting these bills passed into law in 2023. We are proud of these accomplishments, and we are grateful to all who helped.

Update, February 6, 2024: We’re working with the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner for some more details on companies that will offer coverage. Stay tuned.


About the author

 

blurred photo of a woman with short brown hair and glasses.

Becky Montgomery writes about living with hearing loss from a very personal place – she has progressive hearing loss. She managed with hearing aids for 20-odd years but now wears bilateral cochlear implants.

Becky is now retired and works hard at catching up on her reading and movie watching. In the past, she worked at Microsoft, where she was deeply involved in the company’s Employee Resource Group for Disability. She’s also an HLAA-WA Board member.

News for HLAA-WA, January 9, 2024

A new board member, our annual meeting and awards, and more hearing loss news from Washington State and across the country.

Washington State Hearing Loss News

Mark Your Calendars: HLAA-WA Annual Meeting & Awards, March 23, 2024

We’re planning an exciting annual meeting and awards ceremony this year at Green River College in Auburn. Rep. Tina Orwall will be our special guest. This hybrid online/in-person event will be hearing friendly, of course. Watch for more details and registration information.

Welcome to Our New Board Member

We’re excited to welcome Becky Montgomery, our new board member.

A former tech writer and accessibility expert, Becky accepted a 3-year term beginning in 2024. Read her brief bio on our “Our People” webpage.

Scholarship Opportunities for Teens with Hearing Loss

Do you know a graduating senior with hearing loss who’s headed for college or trade school? If they live in Whatcom, Skagit, Island, or San Juan County, let them know about scholarships from the amazing folks at HLAA-Whatcom County.

Meet Your Peers and Find In-Person Support
Friday, January 12, 2024

You’re invited to our in-person Renton Support Group meeting. This group meets the second Friday of each month (except July and August) at 1 pm at the Renton Senior Activity Center, 211 Burnett Avenue North in Renton. No need to register; simply check in at the front desk.

This group is led by our award-winning HLAA-WA secretary Glenda Philio. A hearing loop is available, and everyone is welcome. Always free.

Washington State Legislature 2024 Session: Update

One bill we’re watching during the legislative session: House Bill 2221, which would establish an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter work group. The bill, introduced by Rep. Tina Orwall, would be a step toward addressing the huge ASL interpreter shortage in our state. Check out the Community Coalition for WA Interpreters to learn more.

Last year, our state legislature came through for us on key legislation to get hearing aid coverage for many group private insurance policies. Hearing aid insurance coverage through some employers, unions, and associations began January 1, 2024. If you have a story about this legislation helping your access to hearing health and hearing aids, we’d love to hear from you: admin@hearingloss-wa.org.

Next HOPE Meeting: February 7, 2024

How can you advocate for yourself at a restaurant? How can you hear better during telehealth appointments?
Is pain after cochlear implant surgery normal? These are some of the topics we discussed at our January 2024 HOPE meeting (click on the link to read the meeting notes)

At our February meeting, we’ll welcome Dr. Meghan Nightingale, who will talk with us about tinnitus, dementia, and hearing loss. Dr. Nightingale is an audiologist at Peninsula Hearing in Poulsbo, Washington.

Facilitated by a caring, compassionate HOPE Crew, these monthly virtual meetings are free, live-captioned, and open to everyone with hearing loss and to their friends and family. You’re welcome to ask questions, and also to simply relax, listen, and spend time with people who understand what it’s like to live with hearing loss.

We hope you can join us at this meeting.

National Hearing Loss News

Hear Your TV Better

It’s not your imagination: Understanding dialogue on your television really has gotten harder for everyone, including for people with good hearing. But if you have hearing loss or wear hearing aids, the struggle to hear TV dialogue clearly is even worse.

In this article in Hearing Life, you can find some ideas to help you hear better, like turning on your television’s sound enhancer or dialogue boost feature and buying and installing a good sound bar.

Hearing Aid Charms from a Charming 9-Year-Old Girl

Audrey Brown is only nine years old, but this cancer survivor (!) is making hearing aids glamorous and fun for herself and other kids. She’s making sparkly charms to match her sparkly personality.

Don’t miss this sweet story of a girl with hearing loss helping others.

Learn to Lipread

Our friends at Hearing Loss LIVE! offer online lipreading classes at a very affordable price. Classes are taught in a live format, and the next session starts in February. Find a date and time for a lipreading class that works for you.

Hearing Loops & Telecoils Spotlight

What’s a Telecoil?
Do I Still Need One in My Hearing Aid?

A telecoil is a tiny feature in your hearing aid or CI that connects you to assistive listening systems. Best of all, a telecoil connects wirelessly, easily, and discreetly to a hearing loop in a public venue.

We often get asked whether we still need telecoils, considering that emerging technologies like Auracast Bluetooth LE Audio and Wi-Fi systems may be coming. The answer is YES, you still need telecoils! Hearing loops will be with us for years, at least decade or longer. You don’t want to miss out by waiting for the next technology. Loops are available to you now at venues around the world.

Ask your audiologist about telecoils in your hearing aids. Many hearing aids have telecoils, but they do need to be programmed and activated. And you need to turn your hearing aid to T or Telecoil mode to connect to a public hearing loop.

Happy New Year!

We have big plans for 2024. Join our efforts by visiting our Get Involved webpage.

Become a member of HLAA and HLAA-WA or renew your membership online.

HLAA-WA does not endorse any technology, nor does exclusion suggest disapproval. We support the full spectrum of hearing technologies for everyone. As an all-volunteer run organization, 100% of every dollar donated is directed to our programs. HLAA-WA is an IRS non-profit 501(c)(3) organization; all donations are tax-deductible as allowed by relevant IRS code.


Related Posts

Hearing Loss Help from Our January 2024 HOPE Meeting

If you missed our January 2024 HOPE hearing loss online support meeting, here are the notes. Our topics at this meeting included how to advocate for yourself at a restaurant, help for hearing better during telehealth appointments, and pain after cochlear implant surgery.

You can read more about our program and sign up for a HOPE meeting here.

Notes from HOPE meetings are always available on our blog shortly after the meeting.

  • A New Hearing Aid, or a Simple Adjustment?
    An attendee shared a success story about their visit to the audiologist. Despite experiencing a 20% drop in hearing, which was very concerning, the audiologist was able to adjust their current hearing aid to provide extra volume, thus avoiding the need to purchase a new, expensive hearing aid. This was a significant relief as it saved a lot of money. Other attendees offered suggestions such as ensuring clear visibility of people’s mouths for lip-reading and asking people to face them directly and speak slower for better understanding.
  • Self-Advocacy at a Restaurant
    Another attendee shared a success story about advocating for themselves at a fast-food restaurant. They noticed a sign indicating hearing assistance but discovered it was advertising braille menus. They informed the restaurant manager about the mistake, highlighting the difference between accommodations for the deaf and blind. The manager appreciated the correction and promised to investigate it. This story highlighted the importance of self-advocacy for the hearing loss community.
  • Telehealth Captioning
    An attendee raised concerns about the lack of captioning in group sessions for PTSD treatment, which had changed after the University of Washington switched to a system called Epic. This made it difficult for them to fully participate in the sessions and follow up on video clips without closed captioning. Suggestions from other attendees included contacting Epic’s customer service, using apps like Eye Hear for captioning, and exploring the possibility of getting CART captioning for the sessions. It was also suggested to save transcripts and use Chrome captions for YouTube videos that don’t already have captions. The discussion underscored the ongoing challenges with accessibility in telemedicine.

    Note from the Chat: The FCC published a new rule that video conferencing services must be made accessible by next September. “…all online video conferencing services must be accessible and usable by persons with hearing, speech and vision related disabilities…” https://www.dwt.com/blogs/broadband-advisor/2023/08/fcc-video-conferencing-accessible-disabilities
  • Doorbell Systems for Hard-of-Hearing People
    A participant inquired about alerting systems for the home, specifically for when the doorbell rings and they are unable to hear it. They were looking for suggestions on effective gadgets to use. Other attendees shared their solutions, including plug-in devices that flash the lights in multiple rooms, and special systems that vibrate a bed. It was suggested to check out companies like Diglo.com for such products, and to consider replacing the old doorbell with a system designed for people with hearing loss.
  • Insurance Coverage for Hearing Aids in Washington State, Plus a Call for Personal Stories
    An attendee wanted to discuss new legislation that went into effect on January 1st, requiring insurance coverage for hearing aids. She was looking for individuals willing to share their stories about how this legislation would help them afford hearing aids or how the lack of coverage had previously impacted their ability to purchase hearing aids. The importance of sharing personal stories to raise awareness and advocate for the hearing loss community was emphasized.
  • Post-Cochlear Implant Surgery Pain
    An attendee brought up a question about their experience after their cochlear implant surgery, particularly regarding shifting pain in different areas of the head and a sensation of a smaller ear canal. They were seeking insights or similar experiences from others. The group discussed the possibility of the magnet strength being too strong and suggested consulting with an audiologist or doctor. The importance of addressing any post-surgery concerns with a healthcare professional was reinforced.
  • Groups That Help Hard-of-Hearing Kids
    An attendee asked if anyone knows of any groups that serve hearing-impaired children as she felt it would be beneficial to learn about their needs and how they advocate for themselves. Two groups in Washington state were suggested: 1) Hands and Voices, and 2) Listen and Talk.

One attendee shared a meaningful poem and several jokes which were enjoyed by the group.

There were a couple of good books suggested to read: Deaf Utopia by DiMarco and Successful Aging by Daniel Levitin.

Next month’s HOPE program will bring Dr. Megan Nightingale to speak on “Dementia, Tinnitus and the Impact of Hearing Loss on Brain Health.”

ZOOM CHAT

Contact the patient services at UW and let them know Epic does not offer caption capability. You need captions in order to participate.  FCC publishes new rule that Video Conferencing Services Must Be Made Accessible by Next September. “…all online video conferencing services must be accessible and usable by persons with hearing, speech and vision related disabilities…”

https://www.dwt.com/blogs/broadband-advisor/2023/08/fcc-video-conferencing-accessible-disabilities

Scholarship Opportunities for Teens with Hearing Loss

By Charlene MacKenzie, HLAA-Whatcom County Co-Founder

Acting decisively on their program theme for 2024, Making a Difference, the HLAA-Whatcom County chapter is actively seeking applicants for their Founders Fund scholarships.

Who Can Apply

The scholarships are for graduating high school seniors with hearing loss in Whatcom, Skagit, Island and San Juan counties who want to advance their education at a 2- or 4-year institution, or a trade school. The location of the post-secondary school does not matter. What does matter is that the applicants have verifiable hearing loss. Hopefully, the scholarship program can make a difference for young people navigating their education while having a hearing loss.

In fact, this program already has made a difference. Each year since 2021, the Chapter has offered scholarships, and in 2024, they will celebrate the first scholarship recipient’s graduation from Western Washington University.

Connecting with Students

Not only is hearing loss itself invisible, but high school students with hearing loss often are as well. Searching for these students has not been easy. In 2024, the chapter formed a volunteer team to increase the awareness of the scholarships, and the team expanded the search the search beyond Whatcom County. Since then, the search team has identified the appropriate counselor to contact in each high school, phoned and alerted them to the 2024 scholarships, and then sent them the detailed information to post and share. The response has been gratifying. The counselors are excited and encouraged, pledging their support.

In January 2024, the Founders Fund team will call each high school counselor to confirm the scholarship information has been disseminated, answer any questions, and see if graduating seniors with hearing loss have been encouraged to apply. Already several potential applicants have surfaced.  

If you know any students with hearing loss that may be eligible and interested, please send them to the application at this link.  If you wish to add your financial support to the Chapter’s, you may send your tax-deductible donation to HLAA-Whatcom County, PO Box 252, Bellingham, Washington, 98227.  

HLAA-Whatcom established its Founders Fund three years ago to honor Burt Lederer (prior to his passing) and me, Charlene MacKenzie. Burt and I established the HLAA-Whatcom chapter in 2004; today, it is still thriving, despite the COVID setback.

With the Founders Fund lifting up graduating high school seniors with hearing loss, HLAA-Whatcom will be making a difference in 2024 and beyond!

News for HLAA-WA, December 19, 2023

A thoughtful hearing loss journey story, building diversity in HLAA’s work, and more hearing loss news from Washington State and across the country.

Washington State Hearing Loss News

More Than Getting By: A Hearing Loss Story

In this thoughtful, poignant article in Seattle Met magazine, Allecia Vermillion shares the story of her husband’s hearing loss, how it impacted him and those around him, and how he’s charting a new future for his family.

Note: Private insurance coverage for hearing aids will be available for many Washingtonians on January 1, 2024, thanks to HLAA-WA and other hearing loss advocates. We’ve let the author know.

sepia-toned photo of a man walking along a sidewalk by a body of water. his back is to us.

Our Next Renton Support Meeting is January 12, 2024

You’re invited to our in-person Renton Support Group meeting. This group meets the second Friday of each month (except July and August) at 1 pm at the Renton Senior Activity Center, 211 Burnett Avenue North in Renton. No need to register; simply check in at the front desk. This group is led by our award-winning HLAA-WA secretary Glenda Philio. A hearing loop is available, and everyone is welcome. Free.

graphic with photo of smiling woman with glasses and white hair. she's wearing a blue shirt and posing in front of a waterfall. white text on purple background reads hearing loss help, renton support group, january 12, 2024, 1-2:15 pm, renton senior activity center. hearingloss-wa.org

Hearing-Friendly Holiday Fun at Village Theater and Elsewhere, Too

Live events can be a terrific way to make memories with your loved ones during the holidays. Our president Cheri Perazzoli and her family visited Village Theater in Issaquah to see Beautiful: The Carole King Musical this past week. Both of Village Theater’s locations in Issaquah and Everett have hearing loop assistive listening systems. Cheri reports that the loops are working great.

Village Theater also has captioned and ASL performances on certain dates, generally one show per play, so check their accessibility page for more details.

Beautiful will play until December 30, 2024, in Issaquah and January 6 – January 28, 2024, in Everett.

For more hearing-accessible holiday events, see our events page.

color photo of two women smiling. a small sign with the blue ear, the universal symbol for hearing loop access is to the left

Next Hope Meeting with Special Guest, January 2, 2024

Learn about tinnitus and how hearing loss impacts brain health at our January 2024 HOPE meeting.
Special guest Dr. Megan Nightingale will share her knowledge and answer your questions.
Dr. Nightingale is an audiologist at Peninsula Hearing in Poulsbo.

Remember, all our HOPE meetings are free, captioned, and open to everyone.

january 2024 HOPE meeting, special guest speaker, doctor megan Nightingale, the neuroscience of tinnitus and dementia and the impact of hearing loss on brain health, january 3, 2024, 4 pm via Zoom, free, captioned, open to everyone.

National Hearing Loss News

Hearing Tech Goes Beyond Listening
What’s Next?

Hearing aids are becoming a “whole health product,” according to this fascinating Wall Street Journal podcast. Some hearing aids can isolate specific sounds, count your steps, and know if you’ve fallen. Even more interesting tech is coming in the future, such as gait monitoring to assess fall risk and mood tracking via artificial intelligence.

The podcast’s panel includes hearing loss researcher Dr. Frank Lin from Johns Hopkins.

silver hearing aid suspended on a white cube display

Include the HLAA Convention in Your 2024 Travel Plans

One reason to attend an HLAA convention: It’s a good way to make friends who understand your hearing loss journey. We’ve found that it’s easier to relax and communicate in a fully hearing-accessible environment. At every convention, several social events are designed to help people get to know one another, and they’re always fun. If you’re a first-time attendee, scholarships may be available.

Read more about the 2024 convention, which is June 26-29, 2024, in Phoenix, Arizona.

color photo of seven people seated at a party table. several are wearing Mardi Gras masks.

Hearing Life Magazine Features Diversity in Hearing Loss Advocacy, Support

Inclusion means not only serving people with hearing loss, but also reaching out to specific types of communities who may need help, support, and services for their members with hearing loss.

In the latest Hearing Life magazine, read about how HLAA is connecting with different communities in creative ways, such as programs that are bridging the gap to Indian Americans and to diverse communities in Atlanta.

cover of magazine. white text on purple magazine reads fall 2023 hearing life, the magazine for better hearing, bridging the gap, hearing care across cultures, a publication of the hearing loss association of america. Color photo shows a grade-school girl with black pigtails and a hot-pink sweater, and a doctor is examining her ear with a lighted instrument.

Hearing Loops & Telecoils Spotlight

Find a Venue with Hearing Loops on Google Maps Before You Go

Have you missed an event, meeting, or other outing because you didn’t know if hearing access would be available?

Now, thanks to efforts by HLAA’s Get in the Hearing Loop program, you can check Google Maps to see if a place has a hearing loop before you leave home. This blog post explains more about why this is a game-changer for people with hearing loss.

Watch this video for a demonstration on how and where to look for hearing loops on a venue’s Google Maps listing. You can also offer reviews of hearing loops, and you let the GITHL team know a space has a hearing loop.

graphic and text. graphic is the purple universal symbol for hearing loop with an ear. text reads find a hearing loop using google maps.

Happy Holidays!

We wish you peace and joy this holiday season.

To support our work now and into 2024, visit our Get Involved webpage. To donate, visit our Support page.

red christmas package with big gold ribbon. red and gold lights are burred in the background.

HLAA-WA does not endorse any technology, nor does exclusion suggest disapproval. We support the full spectrum of hearing technologies for everyone. As an all-volunteer run organization, 100% of every dollar donated is directed to our programs. HLAA-WA is an IRS non-profit 501(c)(3) organization; all donations are tax-deductible as allowed by relevant IRS code.


Related Posts