Texas Hearing Aid and Cochlear Implant Purchase Assistance

A word map with words such as audiology, hearing, study, aid, deafness, education, medical.
Locating funding to pay for expensive hearing aids or cochlear implants is worth the time involved. photo credit: Ben Taylor55 Audiology via photopin (license)

Texas Health and Human Services has incorporated links for different programs to help Texans pay for their hearing aids or cochlear implants, which may cost thousands of dollars. There are many programs available to adults wanting hearing support, including service members and veterans, people seeking work or studying, or people who have retired or are not working.

Veterans Programs for Hearing Aid Assistance

For active service members, TRICARE coverage will assist with hearing aids as long as the hearing loss is great enough.

For retired service members, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides assistance with hearing aids. As long as you have ten percent of any service-related disability, you should qualify. You may apply in person or online for VA health care.

Assistance for Working-Age Adults

Workforce Solutions Vocational Rehabilitation Services is the provider who assists people with disabilities who are preparing to work or are working.

According to the Texas Workforce Commission’s website, to qualify for services, you must be able to work, need services to help you do that, and have a disability which is a barrier to employment. Hearing loss and deafness are including in this group.

Diagram of a person and the cochlear implant in place.
A cochlear implant is one of the most expensive pieces of equipment available for hearing loss–usually deafness or near deafness–and involves major surgery. Exploring financial assistance options can save thousands of dollars. photo credit: Rfunderburk90 Ryan-Funderburk-1 via photopin (license)

To apply for services, you may apply at a Texas Workforce Solutions – Vocational Rehabilitation Services office, call 800-628-5115 for information, or send your questions via email to customers@twc.state.tx.us. The website cautions you to include your name, phone and address including city, state and ZIP code in your email, but not your Social Security Number or birth date.

If you quality, the rehabilitation office will send you to be evaluated by an approved audiologist who will assess your needs and report to them. After that, you may qualify for hearing aids, cochlear implants, or related equipment.

Programs for Older Texans

An older woman puts in a hearing aid.
As we age, the incidence of hearing loss and deafness increases. photo credit: http://www.ilmicrofono.it Senior woman with a hearing aid via photopin (license)

Several programs exist to support providing access for older Texans to get hearing aids or cochlear implants. For people who are 60 or older, the state has 28 area agencies on aging (called AAAs). You can contact staff via email or phone at the agency nearest you by using this list of offices across the state. These programs do consider your financial and minority status, and whether you live in a rural area.

Services for Texans not Using Vocational Services for Work

In 2016, Texas transitioned services for Independent Living to the state’s Centers for Independent Living. Scroll down this page and locate the one nearest you to learn about what supports and services they can provide you with in your area. The centers assist with a variety of needs beyond adaptive equipment, such as advocacy.

Nationwide Hearing Aid Payment Assistance

The Starkey Hearing Foundation has a program, Hear Now, for Americans with low incomes. People who meet their criteria are fitted with new hearing aids. Learn more or complete an application.

While your family may make too much money to qualify for other programs, the Audient Alliance for Accessible Hearing Health Care helps individuals acquire hearing aids at lower prices. Call or download their application form.

Community Organizations

Kiwanis, Lions Clubs, and Masons may have local branches that will fund hearing aids. Their website may not list the extent of what they do, so contact your local branch to learn more.

Other Assistive Listening Devices

While you wait to get hearing aids, there are other options to provide some hearing assistance, depending on your needs. Local stores that sell Made-for-TV products have fairly powerful hearing aids for around $20.

Williams Sound offers more advanced equipment for reasonable prices that may help you hear better at home, religious services, recreational events, in restaurants, at school, and anywhere you need to hear better.

Contact Us

Contact The Capsule Group Inc for more support in locating hearing aid or cochlear implant services.

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Applying for and Training Service Animals in Texas

The Capsule Group Inc and Sign Shares, Inc. team enjoyed meeting attendees from across Texas at the Abilities Expo Houston in early August 2019. Sign Shares, Inc. provided sign language interpreting to help make the expo more accessible. While there, CEO and Detective Eva Storey, TPLI met with staff from Service Dogs, Inc.

Specialized Service Animals for a Variety of Needs

Seeing eye dog guiding a person on a conveyor belt.
Most people are aware of guide dogs aiding people who are blind, but there are also service dogs for hearing, mobility, and emotional needs. photo credit: EX22218 – ON/OFF This White Dog…. via photopin (license)

The nonprofit Service Dogs out of Dripping Springs provides a variety of service animals that many people may not be aware exist, including hearing, service, courthouse, first responder facility, and PAWS juvenile offender dogs. Whatever the type of dog, Service Dogs provides free trained dogs and lifetime training for them for qualified applicants. They have been providing free assistance dogs since 1988.

Hearing dogs alert partners to sounds from their environment, such as a baby crying, smoke alarm, and other beeps and buzzes around the home or at work. Service dogs provide motor skills support, such as retrieving objects, opening, closing, and pushing things within their partner’s environment, as well assisting with movement or dressing. Courthouse dogs provide emotional support for children in tense courtroom situations.

According to the organization’s website, one of their programs, PAWS, is “the first and only juvenile offender service dog training program in the country.”

First Responder Facility Dogs work with emergency medical professionals, such as EMTs, paramedics, Emergency Room staff, and others in the hospital setting. The dogs help staff “de-escalate from the traumatic things they see every day,” such as fatalities, accidents, and emergency room happenings.

Seeing Eye Dogs in Texas

While Service Dogs, Inc. provides many types of service animals, they do not provide seeing eye dogs, which are provided by Guide Dogs of Texas. If you’re at least 17 and legally blind, you can call the organization to set up an appointment at (210) 366 4081. No matter which organization’s service animal type you need, expect to wait one to two years to secure a service animal that is trained to your specifications.

Additional Services Provided by Service Dogs, Inc.

Picture of a service dog from the Wisconsin Academy for Graduate Service Dogs.
Service animals are finely trained to devote their attention to work and to have the appropriate temperament for a working animal. The amount of dogs who qualify is limited. photo credit: slambo_42 Friendly service dog via photopin (license)

Service Dogs, Inc. also provides training for professional dog trainers.

Besides assisting people, the organization provides a new start for shelter and rescue dogs, as well as dogs changing careers from other organizations.

If you wish to apply for a Hearing, Mobility or Facility dog, you must be at least 25 years old, have a hearing or mobility disability or represent a facility that provides some of the services listed above, such as at first responder or law and justice programs. The application process may take up to six months, and it may take 10 months to a year before a service animal is placed.

Contact Us to Increase Accessibility and Adaptability

Sign Shares and The Capsule Group is on your side. Contact us regarding interpreting services or advocacy needs.

Sign Shares’ Team Rides to Help Children with Cancer

Two Sign Shares Inc staff have biked 701.4 miles as Team Eva and Ant in honor of loved ones who have fallen to cancer and to raise money for children with the disease. The event was organized by Great Cycle Challenge USA, a company that has “raised $16,070,740 in support of research to develop better treatments and find a cure for childhood cancer” over the past four years.

A woman poses with a puppet, next to another woman with a puppet.
Sharon Miller-Bless often shared puppets. This picture was taken of Sharon and Eva Storey at the Abilities Expo Houston.

Eva Storey, CEO and president of Sign Shares, rode 350.7 miles in honor of a former interpreter for the agency, Sharon Miller-Bless, who was a tri-lingual interpreter for the interpreting agency. “Sharon was more than an employee, but a dear friend,” Storey said.

A woman holds a sign with the name Grace Raitano.
Grace Marie Rataino Butkovich, mother of Anthony Butkovich.

Anthony Butkovich also rode 350.7 miles in honor of his mother, Grace Marie Rataino Butkovich. According to his dedication page, his mother was an advocate for alternative therapies for cancer. “She literally traveled the world studying the root of all cancer and seeking cures in countries that permitted unorthodox treatments.”

Over the month of June 2019, Storey and Butkovich showed determination when they biked in outdoor and indoor conditions, jointly and independently.

According to website participants, they undertook this journey because “cancer is the biggest killer of children from disease in the United States. Over 15,700 children are diagnosed every year, and sadly, 38 children die of cancer every week. Kids should be living life, not fighting for it.”

New Captioning Technology Provides Greater Telecommunications Access

Many people with hearing loss and deafness use a variety of tools to assist their telecommunications, including video and caption phones. Another tool has been added to their access—captioning with Skype.

Skype is known for providing audio and video communications. When Sign Shares Inc. staff held a recent video conference, they learned that Skype now provides captions for video. They were pleased with the quality of the captions for personal use.

Until now, captioning for video has been limited and was mainly available through captioning in YouTube videos, but not for interpersonal communications. With this latest upgrade, individuals with hearing loss and deafness can supplement their video communications with family and friends instead of relying on a combination of lipreading and messaging.

A TV screen shows the news and the captions read, "Welcome back to the light doormat coverage of the..."
Captions are an art between technology and people. When communication matters, contact professionals for captioning.

More experience with Skype will determine its value for professional use. When business meetings are important, or when multiple individuals need to teleconference, contact Sign Share Inc. and The Capsule Group to determine the best accommodations for your needs. This involves considering the individual preferences of the personal with deafness or hearing loss, the location of the meeting, the number of individuals involved, as well as room acoustics and the distance the employee will be from the speaker.

In most situations, employers are required by federal laws to provide accessible meetings that provide a similar experience to the one that any other employee receives, and the Sign Shares Inc/The Capsule Group team will ensure that your employees receive a smooth delivery of services.

As for personal use, Skype’s captioning is a welcome tool to enhance communications with family and friends.

Skype is a free service available online and via a cell phone app. Click here to learn more about Skype or create your account.

Once you download Skype, which is available on desktop or cell phone, you can set the subtitles to run captions while the other person speaks. According to the company’s website, “Live captions & subtitles are available in Skype on Android (6.0+), Android tablet, iPhone, iPad, Windows, Mac, Linux, Web, and Skype for Windows 10 (version 14).”