Demand swamps program for hearing aids

By The Active Age | October 1, 2022

There’s no shortage of local residents needing hearing aids.

A Sedgwick County program that will provide hearing aids to people closed almost as soon as it opened last month after 63 applicants quickly accounted for all the available money. The program is being administered by the Independent Living Resource Center, a Wichita nonprofit.

“That has seen a lot of demand,” said Annette Graham, director of the Department on Aging. “They (ILRC staff) were already in a positive to have people contact them.”

The program will provide up to $2,000 for each hearing aid. Although many hearing aids cost more than that, Graham said a vendor had been found who could provide them for that amount.

According to the National Institute on Aging, one in three adults between the ages of 65 and 74 experience hearing loss and half of adults over 75 have difficulty hearing. Only about one in seven of the 27 million Americans with a hearing impairment wear hearing aid.

“There’s a very high percentage of older adults who never get hearing aids because they are so expensive,” Graham said.

The hearing aids are being paid for with contingency funds approved by the county commission. It’s unknown whether commissioners will consider putting more money toward hearing aids. 

Other contingency funds will be used to provide eyeglasses, food boxes and utility bill assistance for eligible older residents, plus a transportation vehicle for the aging department.