A program that provides hearing aids to seniors in need is about to clear their waiting list thanks to a grant from The Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma.
The Senior Citizens Hearing Aid Project, which was created in 1986 and is housed at the Oklahoma School for the Deaf in Sulphur, provides low-income seniors in Oklahoma with hearing aids. However, the program has been low on funding for years and the need for the devices in the state has only grown. Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma Executive Director John Logan said the foundation was specifically interested in helping a program like SCHAP.
“One of the things we always try to do is identify things we haven’t done before, and the opportunity to change lives with the money we spend” Logan said. “We were reaching out to low vision, low hearing groups and we found the hearing aid program.”
The foundation is providing a grant of about $518,000, which translates to roughly 776 audiology exams, ear mold impressions, fittings and hearing aids. Seven hundred people are currently on the program’s waiting list. The program only provides one hearing aid per person, due to costs.
“We were just compelled to help these seniors who had been waiting so long for something,” Logan said.“The people that need help need help now, and we just thought we’d do what we could.”
The project has been funded by a state fee on landline phones, meaning that funding has been dwindling by the year as fewer and fewer households use landlines. Traci Prince, the director of student support services at OSD, said the program has only been able to serve about 150 seniors per year for the last few years.
“We had an abundance of funding at the time,” Prince said. “We were also able to add a children’s hearing aid program. We never would have thought of cellphones in the 80s.”
The program also provides other devices, like alarm clocks, doorbells or video phones for the hearing-impaired. Prince said that while people are on the waiting list, employees generally touch base and find out what other devices will be helpful while they wait for a hearing aid.
“The funding has gone down every year we’ve done it, but requests have continued to increase year after year because there are no federal programs for senior hearing aids,” Prince said.
Without the funds provided by the foundation, people on the program’s waiting list would have been waiting until 2023.
“Because of the grant, we’ll be able to serve everyone on our waiting list,” Prince said. “We’re going to be busy.”