Children’s Voice of North Texas
By Susan Neuhalfen
Hearing loss is the most common birth defect in the United States. Over 3 million children under the age of 3 suffer from it. Yet, when it comes to getting anything covered under health care insurance, it’s an iffy situation.
Children’s Voice of North Texas was started by Frankie Sanford and his wife, Tiffany. They help families with hearing-impaired children afford their medical needs.
“These aren’t just things that they want for their kids, these are needs,” said Sanford. “It’s imperative that we give these children every chance to succeed.”
Sanford’s daughter Erin is deaf so the Sanfords have had to learn many things through their own experience but, as Frankie points out, every child is different, every insurance carrier is different and every situation is different.
The idea for the charity came after one of Erin’s pre-school classmates had to drop out of a local hearing school because the family could no longer afford the tuition. The school is designed for children ages 2-5 to prepare them for kindergarten. The family had some unexpected bad fortune and the funds just weren’t there. That’s when the Sanfords and others stepped in to help.
“We aren’t talking about a private school that costs thousands of dollars, it was a very affordable school,” said Frankie of the school in Coppell. “So we asked our ENT if there was an organization that provided financial assistance and he told us there wasn’t.”
In 2013 Frankie and Tiffany started Children’s Voice of North Texas to help families of hearing-impaired children. They are currently helping eight families in the area meet their needs for everything from school tuition to speech therapy to equipment.
To the average individual some of this, such as a special pre-school, may seem like an unnecessary expense, but because the brain develops in the first two years after birth, those who are hearing impaired are immediately at a disadvantage. The longer it takes to get the child help, the farther behind he or she falls. For example if it takes a year to get a hearing aid, that puts those hearing impaired children at least one year behind.
“Without help, the children could end up several years and consequently, several grades behind,” said Sanford. “Studies have shown that the sooner the child receives intervention such as cochlear implants, hearing aids and other hearing-assistive devices, the sooner he or she may progress quickly.”
Cochlear implants are electronic medical devices implanted in the ear that provide sound signals to the brain. Unlike hearing aids that simply make sound louder, these provide direct electrical stimulation to the auditory nerve. They are for those who are profoundly deaf, doing the work of the damaged parts of the cochlea.
Every family who applies for cochlear implants through insurance is turned down at least once, according to Sanford. The cost is roughly $70,000 per ear (surgery and equipment) without insurance, and if one is lucky enough to have insurance that will pay for this, it will usually not pay 100%. That is when Children’s Voice of North Texas can help covering out-of-pocket expenses that insurance does not cover.
Some children with hearing loss are benefitted by hearing aids that may cost as much as $5,000 per ear. Sign language is an option though it limits to whom the child may communicate. Then there are other things that children need such as speech therapy or other classes to help them acclimate to school and society.
Children’s Voice of North Texas is a non-profit organization that depends on contributions made by individuals and companies. Additionally, it is one of the charities benefitted by the Oakmont Charity Classic golf tournament which will be held on Friday, September 2. On Saturday, September 3, there is another event that also benefits Children’s Voice of North Texas. It is a Wine Pairing Event, also at the Oakmont Country Club. Patrons will enjoy action food stations paired with select specialty wines, live music, and more. Everyone is welcome to attend.
Sanford’s hope is to give every child the opportunity he or she deserves by helping their families to afford the equipment, training and other necessities to live a fulfilling, productive life.
“Once they have the tools, these kids progress quickly,” said Sanford. “We just want to give them that chance.”
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