SULPHUR, Okla. – The Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma’s has awarded a $125,000 grant to purchase hearing aids through the statewide Senior Citizens Hearing Aid Program operated by the Oklahoma School for the Deaf.
Since 2018, the Masonic Foundation has donated four times to clear waiting lists and help lower-income seniors get hearing aids through the OSD program.
A new study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that seniors with hearing loss have a greater chance of developing dementia, but dementia prevalence is lower among hearing aid users compared to non-users.
“When older Oklahoma start to lose their hearing, many can’t afford to purchase hearing aids,” John Logan, Masonic Charity Foundation executive director said. “Our board is proud to make a significant grant to help them because we know this outstanding program runs out of money every year.
“We appreciate the detailed information OSD gives us showing how funds are used and their map of services which indicates only two counties in Oklahoma were not served by this program last year,” Logan added.
When Masonic Charity Foundation President Neil Stitt and Grand Master Glen A. Chaney presented the grant, Sarah Jameson, OSD administrative coordinator, said, “Your donation enables OSD to not have a waiting list so we’re able to serve for an entire year,”
Jameson supervises OSD’s Equipment Distribution Program, which includes the Senior Citizens Hearing Aid Program.
“Because of the Mason’s donation, seniors served by this program are able to meet with their friends, have lunch, have conversations with their grandchildren, their husbands, their wives – just conversations that they haven’t been a part of for a long time,“ Renate Neal, equipment distribution program coordinator, explained.
OSD’s hearing aid program is funded by a 5-cent fee on telephone service for those who have conventional metal wire or optical fiber telephone connections, known as land lines.
“Regular funding for the program has declined because many Oklahomans have switched to cell phones, which do not currently pay the telephone service fee,” OSD Superintendent Dr. Heather Laine said. “We could help more people if this small fee applied to cell phones and mobile devices.”
To qualify for the Senior Citizens Hearing Aid Program, Oklahoma residents must be 60 years of age, with limited income and a 35-decibel hearing loss in their better ear.
The program pays for an audiology examination, ear mold impression, hearing aid fitting and one non-digital hearing aid per person due to limited funding and the need to serve as many seniors as possible.
OSD contracts with audiologists across the state so seniors can be served as near as possible to their homes.
Individuals can only receive two hearing aids if they are deaf and blind, or if they have waited five years after receiving their first hearing aid through the program.
OSD is a division of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.
For more information about the program, phone 866-309-1717, video phone 405-294-3977 or visit http://www.osd.k12.ok.us/edp/senior_hearing_aid.pdf.