The mother of a girl with a hearing disability hopes her plea doesn’t fall on deaf ears.
The NDP raised the concerns of Stephanie Schneck and her 9-year-old daughter Gracie in Question Period at the provincial legislature on Thursday and they spoke to reporters afterwards.
The mother from Asquith spoke against the cut to the hearing aid plan in the 2017 budget and said it’s become too expensive to afford hearing aids for her daughter since then.
The government used to subsidize the devices but Schneck explained it would now cost $6,400 for her child’s hearing aids. She said they tried the hearing aids during a week-long trial but couldn’t pay the bill to keep them.
“By having zero coverage and zero help, you’ve put us in a position where I’ve had to tell my daughter ‘you don’t get to hear,’” Schneck said.
Schneck works three jobs to make ends meet but explained she makes just enough to no longer be eligible to apply for the Saskatchewan Employment Supplement to help cover costs. She’s been fundraising in the community with steak nights and a GoFundMe page as well.
Even once the expensive hearing aid is paid for, Schneck said there are extra costs like the adhesive pads, an FM system needed for school, cords and batteries. Schneck estimates the annual upkeep costs in the range of $1,000 to $2,000.
Gracie has had hearing loss her entire life and recently learned it’s permanent. Her mother has concerns with her ability to listen and learn in the classroom.
“What’s she going to do in the work life when she has been raised with no hearing and pushed through school, pushed aside,” Schneck asked.
Gracie’s mother said she had no extra help in school, with no teaching assistant, until they were able to find a deaf teacher who understood her needs.
That teacher tailored her curriculum for Gracie over the last two years. Before then, Gracie didn’t know her ABC’s and could barely pronounce words. Schneck said Gracie is in Grade 4 now but would still be in Grade 1 if it weren’t for her deaf teacher.
Health Minister Responds
The type of hearing aid Gracie needs is “very, very new” according to Health Minister Jim Reiter. He said he’ll take a look into possible coverage options for this device but it may take some time to determine which category it falls under.
“I’m going to ask her to be patient a little bit while we look at it and see what we can do,” Reiter said.
If the device is only a more expensive hearing aid then Reiter said it may be included in the children’s hearing aid program but if it’s something that would change possible surgical outcomes it could be treated differently.
The health minister said the province is also in the process of building a new screening program for infants with hearing difficulties.
Reiter said he’s happy to meet with Gracie and her mother while the government works to get answers for them as soon as possible.