Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hearing Loss Doesn't Hold Back Young Singer

By Sara Feijo

Marshfield girl sings despite hearing loss

Elizabeth Sara Merrick might have trouble hearing your voice, but her voice will be music to your ears.

Born with hearing loss in both ears, Elizabeth, 11, got her first hearing aids when she was 4. She never let them set her back. She writes poems and stories, plays the piano, sings and makes movies – mostly horror and comedies.

Elizabeth will be singing the Beatles’ “Let It Be”at the New England Walk4Hearing on Sunday at Artesani Park in Brighton.

A fifth-grade student at South River School, Elizabeth is the daughter of Joe and Chrisann Merrick. Her sister, Grace, 7, is also hearing impaired.

Joe Merrick is an an award-winning singer/songwriter who was recently featured on “Chronicle, so it’s no surprise that Elizabeth started singing when she was 4. He’ll play accompanying guitar at Sunday’s walk.

A precocious youngster, Elizabeth testified last year at the State House for the Massachusetts Hearing Aids for Children Coalition. She was supporting House Bill 52, which was signed by Gov. Deval Patrick on Aug. 6. It requires insurance companies in Massachusetts to cover up to $2,000 of the cost of hearing aids for children.

Sitting at a table in her Marshfield home, Elizabeth remembered being uneasy speaking in front of a lot of people at the State House. “I was nervous,” she said. “ ... I remember saying what I wanted to be when I grow up – an actress, singer, maybe a Dunkin’ Donuts lady ... because it’s a place filled with doughnuts and munchkins.”

She said that afterward, she felt good and was glad to have helped. Elizabeth said she also stands up against bullying by helping friends who are being bullied. She has written stories about bullying.

She’s also written poems about vampires and a short biographical piece titled, “The Story of Elizabeth Merrick.”

Elizabeth said sometimes her classmates would stare at her hearing aids and ask about them, but she didn’t let it get to her.

“I would always say ‘these are hearing aids. They help me hear just like ... people need glasses to see,’” she said.

She enjoys reading and spelling. Her favorite book is “Mango-Shaped Space” by Wendy Mass. Though she recorded a video for “Let It Be” and will sing it Sunday, Elizabeth said her favorite songs are “Titanium” by David Guetta


Thursday, October 25, 2012

About Children and Hearing Loss

Image courtesy of C. Bloomfield at
Babies are not able to tell you that they have hearing loss. 

The first year of life is the most critical to the development of normal speech and language. Because of this, most states require newborn hearing screening tests to determine if a hearing loss is present. 

In the US, there are more then 4,000 babies born with hearing loss each year.

If you have concerns about your child's hearing, schedule a follow-up appointment with an audiologist to have his or her hearing checked again. Audiologists are the primary healthcare professionals that evaluate, diagnose, treat and manage hearing loss and balance disorders in children and adults.

An infant with normal hearing should be able to do the following:

 Around two months of age:
  • Startles to loud sound
  • Quiets to familiar voices
  • Makes vowel sounds like “ohh” 

Around four months of age
  • Starts babbling
  • Looks for sound sources
  • Makes squeals and chuckles

Around six months of age
  • Turns head toward loud sounds
  • Begins to imitate speech sound
  • Babbles sounds like “ba-ba” 

Around nine months of age
  • Imitates speech sounds of others
  • Understands “no-no” or “bye-bye”
  • Turns head toward soft sounds

Around 12 months of age
  • Correctly uses “ma-ma” or “da-da”
  • Gives toy when asked
  • Responds to singing or music

Source: American Academy of Audiology

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Half of Parents Indicate Cost a Barrier to Services

In a newly released survey, half of parents (47%) indicate hearing aid cost was a barrier to getting the necessary services for their hearing impaired child. This was highlighted as a critical issue due to so few insurances plans providing coverage for hearing aids and that frequently those that do provide coverage don't provide an adequate amount.

Image courtesy S. Miles at

 Quotes from parents involved in the study:

"The reason for the huge gap between diagnosis and obtaining hearing aids was because it took me that long to save enough money to buy them"

"We have good private insurance... [but] the coverage for hearing aids is miserable--$500 every three years"

" the time he's in college we'll have invested $20,000."

 "I'm angry that our child cannot get help from our insurance company [for a condition] that affects his physical, academic, social and emotional health!"

"Can't get hearing aids due to the cost, they aren't covered by anything"


Barwick, K,  Muñoz, K, & Blaiser, K. (2012). Parent's Experiences With Pediatric Hearing Aids. ASHA Leader.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Don't have an extra $4000 to spare? Neither do most Washington families.

If your child is born with a hearing loss in the state of Washington and you have no hearing aid benefits through your private insurance plan (more than half of plans have absolutely no coverage at all), you could be looking at spending likely a minimum of $20,000 on hearing aids alone by the time your child reaches the age of 18. That number could exceed $35,000 if premium technology is purchased every 3 years.
Image courtesy A. Balaraman at

Today, the average price of hearing aids and the associated professional services is approaching $2000/ear. Because children are generally much more active than adults, their hearing aids will likely be in need of replacement sooner than the average adult hearing aid user (who generally replaces them about every 4-6yrs). As a child grows and their hearing needs change, hearing aids will typically need replacement about every 3-5 years.

Since the management of other chronic medical conditions, such as juvenile diabetes for example, is often covered at least in-part by nearly all insurance providers--why isn't hearing loss treated the same way?  Decades of research has shown the tremendous benefit of early identification and treatment of hearing loss with hearing aids. Yet, we still see so many health plans deal with hearing aids as a luxury item, rather than the true medical necessity that they are.

Please sign our petition and join with us to help make Washington the 21st state to provide hearing aid coverage for children.