BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Living with hearing loss can be a real challenge, but new technology makes it easier than ever. Several Louisiana organizations offer free or subsidized hearing aids for adults and children.
The Emerge Center recently launched a new website highlighting its hearing services. Besides offering comprehensive screenings, the Baton Rouge non-profit also offers hearing aids and other devices that can be subsidized for low-income families.
"Newer hearing aids don't just amplify sounds, they coordinate sounds with noise control and noise reduction," explained audiologist Nicole Stockstill. "They keep speech signals optimal to hear through the noise, so the brain can focus on the sounds and process speech normally."
The latest hearing aids are rechargeable and link to smartphones and tablets via Bluetooth. That provides GPS tracking and also eliminates the need to change out batteries once a week. Some models have around a four-year battery life and only take three hours to recharge.
"If a child is playing on an iPad and they're wearing their hearing aids with this ability, the batteries could be going out, and it can send a text message to Mom on her phone across the house to let her know it's time to go charge them," Stockstill said.
Lighthouse Louisiana offers hearing aids and other equipment for the deaf and blind completely free. Specialized telephones and other devices are available immediately, while hearing aids usually require a one-year wait.
"People who can't hear or have hearing loss, they tend to depend on their family and friends, whereas these programs really give them independence, and they can use a hearing aid, they can use equipment and live an independent life," Paul Winfree said.
Winfree is the Deaf Services Coordinator for Lighthouse Louisiana's Baton Rouge operations on North Flannery Road. Lighthouse works with the
Louisiana Commission for the Deaf to distribute the free equipment and offer interpreting services.
Winfree and Stockstill both encourage the public to take advantage of these resources as early as possible.
"If we can catch it early while your brain is still actively hearing those sounds, it's not so hard of a transition to get you into a hearing aid later on," Stockstill said. "It's more noticeable when you don't have it because you keep asking 'what' and 'huh' versus having something so small behind your ear that nobody can really notice it."
She recommends all adults have at least one comprehensive hearing screening by age 50, and even earlier for those who spend hours or days in loud environments.
To get on the Lighthouse Louisiana hearing aid waiting list, call 1-800-256-1523.
Lighthouse is funded through their manufacturing facilities in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Gulfport. The factories employ people who are blind, and the money from the sale of their products funds services for people who are blind, deaf or who have other disabilities.