Progress Made in US and State Hearing Aid Tax Credit Bills
Alexandria, Va—The Hearing Industries Association (HIA) reported in late-March that Congressional co-sponsorship of The Hearing Aid Assistance Tax Credit Act (HR 414 and S 1060) is now up to 95 members of the US House of Representatives. The new co-sponsor is Rep Steven Rothman (D-NJ) whose district includes Teaneck and the northeastern New Jersey area.

The Act would provide a tax credit of up to $500 per hearing aid to individuals ages 55 and older and families with dependents once every 5 years. The bills are designed to help older people and children better afford to treat their hearing loss. HIA and the Hearing Aid Tax Credit Coalition, which includes the Hearing Loss Association of America (formerly SHHH), AG Bell, American Academy of Audiology (AAA), American Speech Language Hearing Assn (ASHA) and the International Hearing Society (IHS), have been urging passage of the bill, and the coalition met in March to discuss strategies for helping advance the bill. (For more information, see March HR, pgs 114-117).

California becomes fourth state to introduce a tax bill. California Assemblywoman Audra Strickland (R-37th District) introduced a bill (AB 2698) in the state legislature that would provide a tax credit against the total costs incurred with the purchase of a hearing aid. The bill would apply to the taxpayer, spouse, and dependents.

California joins three other states—Michigan, New Jersey, and New York—that have proposed legislation related to tax credits for those purchasing hearing aids. Like the California bill, the Michigan (HB 2698) and New Jersey House bills (HB 1221) place no limits on hearing aid purchase price, and extend benefits to the taxpayer, spouse, and dependents. The New York House and Senate bills (HB 1347 and SB 2630) would provide for a $500 tax credit towards the purchase of a hearing aid once every 2 years with no restrictions on age (however, the bill stipulates that the hearing aid must not already be covered by insurance). Similarly, the New Jersey Senate bill (SB 1200) is limited to $1,000 per aid. All of these bills have been referred to various committees in state government.

In California, the Revenue and Taxation Committee is scheduled to hear AB 2698 at a committee hearing May 1. HIA is working with allied organizations to encourage hearing care professionals and health care advocates to submit testimony to the committee.

Tri-State Holds 34th Annual Convention
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho—The 34th Annual Tri-State Hearing Convention was held March 2-5 at the Coeur d’Alene Resort, attracting 171 attendees, nine students from Spokane Falls Community College, and three students from Bates Technical College. Forty-three exhibitors representing manufacturers, products, and organizations also participated in the conference.

 Bob Shepard (left) was presented with the Paul Willoughby Award by Tri-State Board Chairman Chris Gustafson during the 34th Annual Tri-State Hearing Convention.

This year’s classes covered a wide range of topics, including but not limited to, understanding options in DSP products, evaluation and management techniques of common vestibular disorders, and Bluetooth-enabled devices and their role in wireless communication for hearing impaired individuals.

Chris Gustafson, Tri-State board chairman, honored Bob Shepard with the Paul Willoughby award at the March 4 luncheon. This was followed by a brief, albeit colorful, pictorial history of Shepard’s life presented by his wife. This award is given, at the Tri-State Board’s discretion, to a person in the hearing care profession carrying on Paul Willoughby’s commitment to supporting and promoting dispenser education, as well as honoring his tireless enthusiasm for the industry. Shepard has been a member of the Tri-State Board since 1995 and recently retired from private practice.

Audina, Beltone, Microtech, Oticon, RJS Acoustics, Sonus Network, Sonic Innovations, and Siemens Hearing Instruments co-sponsored a welcome party with a local micro-brew, wines, and hors d’oeuvres, and Phonak, Siemens, and Starkey hosted other venues and special events. Next year’s convention will be held in Seattle at the Sea-Tac DoubleTree, February 22-25, 2007. For registration information, contact Patsy Lenhard, PO Box 63, Yakima, WA 98907; e-mail: [email protected] w

Apple Issues Volume-Related Software Update for iPods
Cupertino, Calif—Apple Computer has introduced new software that will allow iPod listeners to set their own personal maximum volume limit. The move is in response to a lawsuit and media reports that MP3 devices feature volume levels that are potentially damaging to hearing health (for in-depth information, see the March HR News, p 16-18, and the article by Brian Fligor in the March HR). Apple has sold 42 million iPods since September 2001 and 14 million during the “Christmas Quarter” of 2005.

“While public education is the fundamental long-run answer to protecting the nation’s hearing health with regard to popular new audio technology, Apple’s move is a step in the right direction,” says ASHA Chief Staff Officer for Science and Research Brenda Lonsbury-Martin.

Apple ships a warning with each iPod that cautions “permanent hearing loss may occur if earphones or headphones are used at high volume” and the company has also posted online a brief analysis about sound, advising users of iPods, computers, and other devices to “listen responsibly” when using headphones or earbuds.