Oregon State Senate Bill 491 - your assistance requested
Over the past few months my hearing has profoundly worsened, a fact I was finally able to officially confirm in February. If you have a hearing loss, you're already in touch with how much it can minimize and/or eliminate your ability to engage in causal conversations. Now imagine a loss profound enough to take both most verbal communications away, and your ability to appreciate most music. Hearing can disappear slowly, or overnight, due to an illness, accident, the progression of a birth defect, an ototoxic medication like some antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs, or even listening to an iPod or stereo too loudly for too long.<br /><br />I'm seeking your assistance to call attention to a bill which has already passed the Oregon State Senate, and will soon be before the House. This bill promises to help me and many others with a profound hearing loss restore a certain level of sound, speech, and music perception. Through support of a medical procedure known as a bilateral (ie: two ear) cochlear implant.<br /><br />Senator Deckert of Beaverton has sponsored SB 491 (<a class="moz-txt-link-freetext" href="http://landru.leg.state.or.us/07reg/measures/sb0400.dir/sb0491.intro.html">http://landru.leg.state.or.us/07reg/measures/sb0400.dir/sb0491.intro.html</a>). A bill "Relating to insurance coverage of bilateral cochlear implants; creating new provisions; and amending ORS 750.055 and 750.333". I urge you to review the details below, and consider contacting your senator in support of this bill. You can find your legislator here: <a class="moz-txt-link-freetext" href="http://www.leg.state.or.us/findlegsltr/">http://www.leg.state.or.us/findlegsltr/</a><br /><br />Further details regarding cochlear implants and SB 491:<br />1) This bill "...Requires health insurers that provide coverage for cochlear implants to provide coverage of bilateral cochlear implants...".<br /><br />2) Cochlear implants are essentially a bionic, or implanted, prosthetic substitute for hearing aids which help the profoundly hearing impaired (ie: deaf) hear when regular hearing aids can no longer help. They are a technology which has been in use since 1969, and FDA-approved since 1984 (see: <a class="moz-txt-link-freetext" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cochlear_implant">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cochlear_implant</a> ). As a mature technology, with well-established FDA guidelines for use, cochlear implants are the only technology which exists to help the profoundly hearing impaired/deaf hear.<br /><br />3) Each implant can cost upwards of $80,000, and one is needed for each ear in order to provide the greatest benefit for the patient, many do not have the resources for such essential and expensive medical treatment, so they depend on insurance and government assistance.<br /><br />4) Many insurance companies only provide coverage for one ear, under the guise that two (ie: bilateral) implants are an experimental procedure. This is akin to telling someone who needs a hip replacement that they'll only have one hip, instead of two, replaced. Bilateral cochlear implantation has been an accepted, mainstreamed medical practice since 1998. Over 3,000 implantations have been performed, including over 1,600 on children. (source: <a class="moz-txt-link-freetext" href="http://advocacy.letthemhear.org/research.php">http://advocacy.letthemhear.org/research.php</a> ).<br /><br />5) Bilateral implants have proven to provide a greater quality of life for thousands, by enabling improved verbal/auditory communication over monaural implants, and by giving the ability of sound localization, and greatly improved speech recognition - things people with normal hearing take for granted.<br /><br /><br />My personal motivation behind this, is that I now have a profound hearing loss. This congenital sensorineural loss was "steady" between 60-70dB (moderate loss) for roughly 15 years prior to around August of 2006, when it suddenly dropped. In Feburary of 2007 it dropped again (to a 95dB bilateral loss), placing me now in the "profound loss" category (the most severe ranking possible).<br /><br />Bilateral (two ear) implants are critical for folks like me; While cochlear implants are a mature technology which has been around for over three decades, they're still imperfect. Modern implants have at most 24 electrodes to replace the 16,000 delicate hair cells that are used for normal hearing, and the "sound" of human voices perceived through implants has been compared to robotic voices with laryngitis. Given such "limited" capabilities, bilateral implants would be critical for some folks to restore a reasonable level of speech comprehension; a capability essential for functioning in the "hearing world".<br /><br />Your time and consideration are greatly appreciated.