ATLANTA - An estimated 4,500 children in Georgia need hearing aids, but most insurance companies in the state don’t cover them.
Seven-year-old twins Hayden and Colby McKenzie are best friends, but their parents said Hayden is more reserved because of a disease that's robbed him of most of his hearing since he was 4.
"(We) found out he has a disease called cholesteotoma, so they had to do surgery and remove several hearing bones out of his ear, and that's what caused his hearing loss," their mother, Amanda McKenzie, said.
She and her husband, Ronnie, work and have health insurance, but they still can't afford the hearing aids they say Hayden needs. They cost $6,000 and their insurance won't help pay for them.
"It's emotional for us. You want the best for your child. You want them to excel and they can't without that help," McKenzie said.
Medicaid covers the hearing aids, but Georgia doesn't require insurance companies to cover them.
"I think he's had quality of life lost," Ronnie McKenzie said.
He and his wife have tried loaner aids, and even amplifiers that hunters use to keep down costs.
"Those helped, but the day we put a hearing aid on him, his face lit up and he could hear clear," he said.
That's why Kelly Jenkins, a mother of a 3-year-old who has hearing aids, started Let Georgia Hear, a nonprofit pushing to change state law to require health insurance companies to cover hearing aids for children.
"We get calls every day from parents, either delaying getting hearing aids for their children or getting only one when they need two, and they're really struggling to make ends meet," she said.
State Rep. Ed Lindsey is sponsoring a bill this year to change Georgia law to require insurance companies to cover hearing aids for children. He said about 20 other states have made a similar change.