By Jeanine and Grace Gleba
In December 2008, a small (Christmas) miracle happened in the state of New Jersey and personally for our family. It’s hard for us to believe that it has been a decade since Governor Richard Codey said these words:
“I want to personally thank Grace and the entire Gleba family for their years of advocacy on behalf of children with hearing loss. Grace’s tenacity, and her own example of what children can achieve with the proper treatment for hearing loss, are a major reason why kids in New Jersey will be able to receive the gift of hearing for years and years to come. Grace and her family have taken personal adversity and turned it into something positive for the people of New Jersey. We all owe her a debt of gratitude.”
The governor spoke as we witnessed the passage of Grace’s Law S467/A1571. These bill numbers are emblazoned forever in my mind.
Grace’s Law is known as Hearing Aid Insurance Legislation (HAIL) and mandates hearing aid coverage for New Jersey children ages 15 years and younger. For our family and all of the families who advocated in the state capital of Trenton with us, it was a monumental accomplishment. In fact, it took nine years to raise awareness and fight for this law to become a reality. The statistics validate this being quite a feat as only 3 percent of all bills introduced ever become a law!
On the law’s 10th anniversary, here are 10 ways you can celebrate this landmark legislation:
1) Take a few minutes to learn the history of the bill here and here. You can read the original legislation and the most recent pamphlet that the NJ Department of Human Services’ Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing has produced explaining Grace's Law. Take note that as a result of the Affordable Care Act, the state has made this an essential health benefit and since 2014 there is no longer a maximum benefit limit of $1,000 per hearing aid (after deductibles, copays etc.). Now that’s something to celebrate—that children now can have even better coverage!
2) Support research toward a biological cure for hearing loss with a contribution to Hearing Health Foundation (HHF)’s Hearing Restoration Project (HRP). The HRP is a scientific consortium studying how fish, birds, and mice regenerate their hearing to replicate this phenomenon in humans.
3) Do you know a child who has benefitted from Grace’s Law and is a shining example that with their hearing aids they have overcome obstacles and achieved great things? Help them join HHF’s Faces of Hearing Loss awareness project. Their participation will show that hearing loss and related conditions can affect anyone.
4) Make a difference in someone else’s life and give the gift of sound by donating old hearing aids to Hearing Charities of America.
5) Wear earplugs for a day to gain a better understanding of living with hearing loss on a daily basis and why getting fitted for proper hearing aids can improve lives.
6) Participate in Walk4Hearing events held nationwide by the Hearing Loss Association of America.
7) Tweet a message showing your gratitude for HAIL. Tag @graceslaw and @hearinghealthfn include a link to this blog post. Here are sample tweets to get you started:
For 10 years #GracesLaw #HAIL has helped children in NJ hear. Help spread the word by doing something from the 10 Ways to Celebrate!
Millions of Americans experience some sort of hearing loss. #HAIL is needed in every state. #listenupamerica
I’m celebrating #GracesLaw #anniversary by _____________.
#GracesLaw improved my/my child’s quality of life by ____________.
This year I am thankful for #HAIL #GracesLaw and hearing technology #gratitude
8) Advocate like we did 10 years ago! Last year, President Donald Trump signed into law the Food and Drug Administration Reauthorization Act of 2017, which includes the Over the Counter Hearing Aid Act. Next, we hope Congress will pass federal HAIL for all ages. Hearing loss doesn’t discriminate, so why does insurance coverage? Write your legislators to let them know that this is important to you.
9) Schedule a hearing exam for you or a loved one.
10) Protect your hearing or lose it. People of all ages can be affected by noise-induced hearing loss. Turn down the volume on your electronic devices. Find more ways to protect your hearing.
This article was repurposed with permission from Jeanine and Grace Gleba. Jeanine Gleba serves as a public member on the NJ State Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Advisory Committee. Grace Gleba is a student in the Schreyer Honors College at Pennsylvania State University, where she is majoring in communications sciences and disorders with a minor in health administration and policy.