MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – A bill moving through the U.S. Congress could potentially help people who are hard of hearing by streamlining the process of seeing an audiologist.
South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice is one of those behind the bipartisan bill.
Right now, anyone who needs to see an audiologist has to first get a referral from a primary doctor.
The bill would eliminate the requirement of seeing a primary doctor, so people who need to go to an audiologist could do so immediately.
Rice said the bill could save people time and money.
"Each doctor visit costs money," Rice said. "It costs money to the insurance company, costs money for the patient. And so if we can cut out one of those levels, then everybody's better off."
One Little River woman said the bill is a step in the right direction, but she's hoping one day legislation is passed that would require insurance companies to cover the cost of hearing aids.
Michelle Barden was born with accentuated neural and conductive hearing loss.
"Without hearing aids, I would technically be deaf," Barden said.
She has been working with politicians since 2015, in the hopes of passing some kind of legislation that would require insurance companies to pay for hearing aids. Some of them can cost as much as $6,000 for a pair.
Barden knows the struggle personally, as she had to work two jobs at one point to make sure she could pay for her hearing aids.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 17 states require insurance companies to pay for hearing aids for children. Only four require it for children and adults.
Barden says she hopes one day every state will require insurance companies to cover at least some of the cost for anyone at any age.
"Why do insurance companies cover glasses and not hearing aids?" Barden asked. "Even if it's only partial coverage for, like, glasses. Both deal with quality of life."