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E-Michigan Deaf and Hard of Hearing People.

News: November 2003

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New Town for Sign Language Planned

Two Sioux Falls residents would like to found a new town renowned for its use of American Sign Language (ASL). M.E. Barwacz and Marvin Miller (formerly from Michigan) sent a letter to the McCook County Commission announcing their plans to found the new town of Laurent.

It won’t be necessary to be deaf to live in Laurent, “the town welcomes and embraces hearing people from all walks of life who want to be a part of the sign language community.” The founders envision a town that is “accessible, friendly, economically and politically viable.”

The identified site is near Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The town will be named after Laurent Clerc, who brought sign language to the United States in the early 19th century.

Della Smith's illustration of Signers' Village

A drawing by Della E. Smith showing people signing to each other on Main street. ©Laurent Town

For more information on Laurent, South Dakota see the website at:

Marvin Miller can be contacted at:

On an interesting note, check out another article about Martha’s Vineyard: Where Everyone Spoke Sign Language

MSU Researchers Discover Gene Mutations That Cause Hearing Loss

Researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) have discovered a set of gene mutations that cause progressive hearing loss, a discovery that should provide significant clues in the hunt to solve the puzzle of acquired hearing loss. Click here for more…

Bill Could Provide Hearing Aid Tax Credit

The Hearing Aid Assistance Tax Credit (H.R. 3103), if passed, will provide a credit of up to $500 per hearing aid, available once very 5 years per person (not for family). The tax credit may be taken by an individual age 55 or older, purchasing a hearing aid for personal use, or by a parent purchasing a hearing aid for a dependent child or parent. The credit will apply to any hearing aid that is considered a “qualified hearing aid” under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. H.R. 3103 was introduced by Jim Ryun (R–KS).

According to Self Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH), 95% of individuals with hearing loss can be successfully treated with hearing aids. However, only 22% of people with hearing loss currently use hearing aids. One factor is the lack of third party payment (private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid) for the devices. With an average cost of over $2,800 for two hearing aids, thousands of people are unable to afford this effective medial treatment. It is hoped that this tax credit will offer some relief to the 28 million Americans with hearing loss.

According to a Project Hope Study, people with a severe hearing loss, who are still in the workplace, can be expected to earn only 50–70% compared to their non–hearing impaired peers, and lose between $220,000 and $440,000 in earnings over their working life. About half of the population over age 75 has a significant hearing loss. A National Council on Aging study found that individuals with hearing loss who use hearing devices are likely to report better physical, emotional, mental and social well being than those who do not use hearing aids. Those with untreated hearing loss are likely to require more of the medical and psychological services that are covered by insurance and Medicare.

Brenda Battat, the SHHH Director of Public Policy emphasizes the potential impact of this bill’s passage, “We have to get a foot in the door. Tax credits often start small and then you can work to expand them. Federal recognition of hearing aids as a beneficial treatment for hearing loss will be big step forward. SHHH will be working to improve financial help for hearing aids in other ways. It is an issue that we are committed to and will continue to pursue. This [bill] is a start.”

For more information on this bill and how to respond see:

SHHH website at

American Academy of Audiologists Legislative Alerts.

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