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May 6, 2003

State Program Provides Free Hearing Aids

From: KATC, LA - May 6, 2003

A program providing free hearing aids to Louisiana's senior citizens has had such overwhelming response that a year's worth of funding was used up in only a few months.

Jan Faulkner of the Louisiana Commission for the Deaf says the program has served about 700 people since the program started December 1st. About 130 more are on a waiting list and Faulkner says she expects even more responses when the next funding allotment comes through July 1st. Faulkner says her agency is the only one that elderly, needy people can go to for help with hearing aids.

The program is financed by a $750,000 annual allotment from the state's L.C.D. Telecommunication Fund for the Deaf. The money has been accumulating from a five-cent-per-month tax on phone lines since 1988.

The fund generates $1.2 million a year for telecommunications devices for the deaf such as amplified telephones, doorbell ringers and alerting systems. The program offers free hearing aids that generally cost between $1400 and $1500.

Vernon Lawrence, 74, of Shreveport says he heard about the program from a friend and signed up in late December. Before he got his hearing aid, he said he could understand only about 40% of what he was hearing. Now, he says he hears everything.

To be eligible, applicants must be at least 50 years old and have an annual income of no more than $22,150 for an individual or $29,850 for two people in a household. There are special circumstances where younger people also may qualify.

For more information, contact the Louisiana Commission for the Deaf toll free at 1-800-256-1523.

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