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Wisconsin Telephone Program Provides Relief For Those With Hearing Loss
Have you ever struggled to hear on a regular telephone? It happens all the time to people who are experiencing hearing loss and it may indicate the possibility of future health issues. Fortunately, the state of Wisconsin operates the Telecommunications Equipment Purchase Program (TEPP) and it’s making a difference for thousands of people across the state.
TEPP is a Wisconsin state program that provides free vouchers to residents with hearing loss so they can obtain amplified phones in order to improve their utilization of basic telephone services. TEPP is administered through the Public Service Commission and funded by a Wisconsin telephone user fee known as the Universal Service Fund. Most telephone service subscribers have probably noted the “USF” charge on their phone bill but never knew its purpose.
Research shows that people with untreated hearing loss are much more likely to encounter dementia and balance problems – along with depression, anxiety, loneliness, and other anti-social behaviors. Talking on the telephone and listening to the human voice is one of the most powerful stimulants that keeps the brain active and helps delay or prevent cognitive and emotional decline.
The Americans For Better Hearing Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit organization with a mission of improving communication services to people with hearing loss and is a TEPP facilitator. ABHF works with TEPP to assess the needs of applicants, provide an assortment of special telephone equipment at no cost, and distribute additional information to raise awareness of hearing loss issues. The consumer with a hearing or other disability can apply to the program and receive telephone equipment costing $800 or more with a special ABHF fund that covers the state required co-payment. There is no cost to the applicant.
The telephones offered are rich in features that enable those with a hearing loss to communicate over the phone. These features include hearing aid compatibility, amplified volume, enriched tone controls, speaker phone capability, extra large numbered keypads, loud ringer volume choices, caller ID enabled, and unique speed-dialing features. In addition, Bluetooth streaming neck loops and desk phones are available for those who mainly employ cell phones.
TEPP is available to Wisconsin residents with a hearing loss who have not applied within the last three years. There are no age or income restrictions.
People who apply for the TEPP program can expect to receive their equipment in approximately 3-5 weeks. No additional charges will ever appear on the individuals’ phone bill and the amplified phone becomes their property. In three years’ time, TEPP participants may reapply in order to receive technologically advanced equipment in order to address individual needs.