TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A local little boy has received a new set of hearing aids at no cost to his family.
Four-year-old, Luke Szczepanski, of Troy, was diagnosed with severe bilateral sensorineural hearing loss at just two months old. He received his first pair of hearing aids through an early intervention program run by Rensselaer County, but he has since aged out of the program and needed a new set. Being that he’s at a crucial age for learning and development, it was important that he get them.
His mother, Cheryl Szczepanski, told NEWS10 her insurance provider has no coverage for hearing. So, with no help from insurance and an astronomical cost for the devices, exams and fittings, she said there was no way they could afford it.
“One of these hearing aids is at least $4,000, and he needs two of them,” said Szczepanski.
Luke’s audiologist told Cheryl to look into Lemon(aids) 4 Hearing Aids. It’s an organization that was founded in 2018 by Carly Waters, of Esperance, who is now 10-years-old. Her two little sisters were diagnosed with hearing loss, and after learning how expensive hearing aids are, Carly wanted to raise money for children who are in need. She started sewing plush, stuffed lemons and has already sold thousands worldwide. Soon they will be selling their new hearing-impaired dolls as well. Their mother, Marissa, handles the applications and serves as the liaison between families.
“It made me feel nice and glad that he can hear better and just live his life,” said Carly Waters.
In March of 2019, Lemon(aids) partnered up with the HearStrong Foundation. It’s another not-for-profit that was founded in 2013. They partner with hearing healthcare professionals across the country to give people of all ages access to hearing health services.
Together, the two organizations find a way to cover the cost for children in need of hearing aids. Julianna Hebert, the program manager for HearStrong, told NEWS10 that a lack of insurance coverage is common for youth who are hearing impaired.
“It’s a two pronged approach. We actually find an audiologist local to the child and that audiologist will test, recommend devices, and then fit the child with those hearing aids. We also then reach out to various hearing aid manufacturers for the recommended devices and those manufacturers generously donate the hearing aids for these children,” said Hebert.
Luke Szczepanski is now a lucky recipient. In August, he was fitted for his brand new Oticon hearing aids by Dr. Karen DeJoy at Audiologist Solutions Hearing in East Greenbush. The hearing aids and the audiologist services were provided at no cost to his family.
“He was so excited. He asks for them now and he’s reluctant to take them out at night,” said Szczepanski.
Szczepanski told NEWS10 they’re already seeing improvements at home and in pre-school.
“Luke used to get so frustrated, but now he enjoys hearing new things like lawn mowers down the street, whistling, and birds chirping. He is even starting to verbalize more, which is exciting for us,” said Szczepanski.
She said they’re forever grateful for the generous people who came together to make this happen.