Speaking out for sake of hearing

Rod and Karen Kowach spent a lot of time this spring somewhere they weren't used to.

The state capitol.

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They weren't there for themselves. They were there for their 10-year-old daughter, Mariah.

Mariah was born profoundly deaf to high frequency tones, which are similar to the "S" sound.

In Denver, the the bill SB208 -- which defines the practices of audiologists and hearing aid dispensers in Colorado -- was being examined by the Senate and House of Representatives.

There was one particular part of the bill the Kowachs were concerned with.

The Colorado Academy of Audiology was trying to change the standard of hearing aid sales.

Previously, hearing aids could be sold by audiologists and hearing aid dispensers.

Audiologists, according to the proposed bill, test and diagnose patients and prescribe the hearing aid. They also can sell them.

Licensed hearing aid dispensers fit or sell hearing aids, but do not prescribe them.

The Kowachs had been seeing a hearing aid dispenser. If the amendment been made, they would have no choice but to see someone else.

Under the proposed change, hearing aid dispensers no longer would be able to legally sell or fit hearing aids to minors.

"We had our choice with someone Mariah really worked well with," Rod said.

Had the proposed change been added to the bill and the bill passed, Rod said this would have limited his choices.

Instead of seeing Cindy Hoest, a licensed hearing aid dispenser based out of Glenwood Springs who visits Craig almost weekly, Rod said his daughter would have to see an audiologist in Steamboat Springs, who she is not comfortable with. Or Ron would take time off from work and travel to Grand Junction.

Speaking up

In Denver, senators were looking for input about the proposed change, but they wanted to hear a neutral point of view. They wanted to hear from someone the bill would affect, not an audiologist or a hearing aid dispenser.

The Kowach's were those people.

During the course of the debate, Hoest said the Kowachs were the only family to make an appearance.

"Me, doing what we did, showed that there are people in rural Colorado who care," Rod said. "There aren't audiologists on every corner. We need these people. We need the choice."

And they were heard.

The proposed change was removed from discussion, allowing hearing aid dispensers to continue selling hearing aids to minors.

Hoest said the bill soon will be signed by the governor, solidifying it for a year, but she suspects audiologists will continue to push for the change in the future.

"It's cool that these average people, who don't know a whole lot about legislators, were willing to make the trip to help themselves and help others," Hoest said. "They made a very compelling story."

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