Multi-state Hearing Aid Cooperative Increases People Served Bookmark and Share

January 7, 2014

For Immediate Release: January 7, 2013 Contact: Julie Rabinowitz, Department of Labor, 621-5009

Cost-savings doubles the number of people receiving hearing aids to keep them employed

AUGUSTA—Over the past three years, the Maine Department of Labor has more than doubled the number of clients with hearing loss that it can serve through a new multi-state partnership for purchasing hearing aids. These efforts have enabled more Mainers to get back to work.

“The new hearing aid program is serving more people, helping them keep their jobs or start new ones because they are able to hear better,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “Collaboration with other states helps us buy in volume, lowering costs for the taxpayer while increasing the number of people served. This program is a great example of what state government can do to be more efficient while improving services for our most vulnerable citizens, not to mention helping people gain and keep a job.”

In the fall of 2010, the department’s Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (BRS) entered into a cooperative multi-state agreement, in association with Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin, to procure hearing aids for eligible Maine clients with hearing loss. These clients are part of the bureau’s vocational rehabilitation program, which helps people with substantial limitations due to disability achieve their employment goals.

In the federal fiscal year 2008, this program served 204 individuals at an average cost per participant of $2,657. After the implementation of the new collaborative agreement, the numbers of people served have risen dramatically while the costs per participant have fallen. In 2011, 2012, and 2013, participants increased from 301 to 378 to 526, respectively, and the cost per participant fell from $1,607 in 2011, to $1,421 in 2012 and then rose a few dollars to $1,429 in 2013. The cost per participant has dropped by more than $1,200 over five years.

Vocational rehabilitation clients work with a counselor to identify their strengths and employment needs and to develop an Employment Plan. Hearing aids may be provided as part of a client’s Employment Plan when the client requires amplification to manage the required communication on the job. Clients who will be using hearing aids, especially first-time users, receive counseling to assist in their transition to using the hearing aid and to ensure that the hearing aid will provide the right type of amplification that the job requires.

The counselor refers the client to an audiologist for a hearing evaluation. If the client is eligible for a hearing aid, the audiologist then makes a recommendation for a hearing aid contracted through the collaborative agreement. The State of Maine is committed to continuing its professional affiliations with audiologists and hearing aid providers while utilizing resources in the most cost-effective manner possible.

Clients of the program have been pleased with the opportunity to return to work that the hearing aid provides. A client in Lewiston wrote, “This is my first day with [hearing aids] at work! It will be interesting and I am already noticing a dramatic improvement in my ability to hear and discern information. Words will never be able to express my appreciation to you and the audiologist for the help and guidance you have provided me through this process.”

Another client wrote, “I am grateful each morning when I put the hearing aids in and when I take them out. Being able to hear has greatly improved my working conditions and helped me [be] more confident in hearing …and to continue to do my job in joy and in the highest level of professionalism. VR [vocational rehabilitation] is a wonderful resource to many in order to stay in the workforce in today’s struggling employment market. .. Please keep up the great work.”

If you or a family member have questions about the vocational rehabilitation program or services available to people experiencing a hearing loss, please contact either Terry Morrell, director of the Division for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Late Deafened at terry.l.morrell@maine.gov, (207) 470-7668 or Nancy Melanson at nancy.a.melanson@maine.gov, (207) 623-7958.

The Maine Department of Labor is an equal opportunity provider. Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities.

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