What would you take if you had a choice to get a million-dollar item for free or get a million-dollars in cash for free?
Our love for free stuff is a human phenomenon. Studies have shown that we become irrational when it comes to free stuff. Our mind draws on it like a big sweet tasty cake. We go for the first, second, and thirds before realizing what is happening. As a result, our waistline increased, and we rationalized that our clothing had shrunk in the dryer.
Like a tempting cake, free stuff takes away our initial pain from spending. We think we are getting all the good stuff and saving our money. Yet, they say free comes at a cost. There’s a truth to that. It may not be immediate, but it can show up later in life without you realizing it.
The same goes for people with hearing loss who love free stuff. At the start of the pandemic, Zoom didn’t provide closed captioning for free. It was an additional cost for anyone who set up the meeting and many didn’t want to pay. People in the hearing loss community protest for free captions and won. But I remember reading some arguments compared closed captioning to ramps for wheelchairs. The argument was that people in wheelchairs do not have to pay to move up a ramp, then why should we have to pay for access.
While I believe in making things accessible, I disagree with this argument. We don’t see the cost of the ramp because the price has been compensated when you enter the building. If the building is a store, you and others pay when you purchase something inside. If the building is your workplace, you reciprocate with the profit that you bring to the company. Things that are free are compensated by time, money or other resources. Very rarely are we getting something for free.
We live in a society where premium comes with cost, comfort and convenience. If you want to attend a play and get a nice close-up view of the performance, you pay top dollars to sit at the front. If you want a 5-star hotel service, you better open up the wallet or get the basics to what you need. If you prefer discount clothing, you’ll have to drive 120 kilometers to an outlet mall or pay up at your local mall.
Free, in my mind, continues to marginalize communities. When something is given for free you end up accepting whatever you can get and at times they aren’t of value to you. Free stuff doesn’t give you control over what you want or prefer to have, nor does it give you complete access. What we need is more capital to bargain and power for what we want. You can use capital to demand for the quality of services and products that you want. You can use capital to decide how you choose to live. As inflation and prices continues to rise, you shouldn’t be constraint to work with what you have. You should be growing your income too. Money gives you that power in exchange for value. Free does not.
Okay, enough of the rant. I get it. You came to learn about the free stuff that you can get your hands on. We live in a free society after all, and I will not stop you. Yes, there are plenty of free gadgets to get your hands on. Of course, most if not all of them are free. The government pays for these via your taxes. However, this is country dependent. Not every country behaves the same, and many countries continue to marginalize people with hearing loss. If you are fortunate to live in a country that supports disabilities, I can assist you and get you what you are looking for.
Free products mainly go to people who need them the most, those with little income, living in poverty or no income. Hence, programs are available to help provide hearing equipment and devices at no cost.
From America to developing countries, hearing aid manufacturers like Starkey’s or Miracle-Ear provide hearing aids at no cost for people who would not be able to afford them. But, mainly, funders or donors donate hearing aids to enable others to get them at no cost.
This article focuses mainly on government-funded programs that provide free products. We are not sharing the various charities or non-profits that support people with disabilities through their low-income programs. We are not focusing on student or youth funded programs because not all of us are under 20 years old. Also, we won’t cover insurance programs because that isn’t exactly free. You or your employer is paying a fee for insurance. Here, we are focusing on free products accessible to anyone regardless of income or economic status. But by the fact that you have a hearing loss.
If you visit your local Red Cross or fire department, you can access a free smoke detector with a strobe light and a bed shaker. These devices typically do not need hard wiring. Further to that, you may get a house visit to help set up your alarm for you.
In America, some people still use landlines. For some, this sentence may sound like it comes from the stone age. Yet, having your phone call captioned makes life a lot easier. A few brands work with the government to provide free telephone and caption services. Here are a few
When you need virtual interpretation services to communicate with non-signers, it makes sense to get the right technology to make the interpretation services run smoothly. A number of companies offer free equipment for the deaf who need remote interpreting services.
Many companies like Sorenson and ZVRS have a smart lighting system to alert you to VRS calls visually.
If you are a former military employee, Veteran Services provides free hearing aids, and some states provide free hearing through Medicare.
The British government provides grant programs to support people with hearing loss, but these are specific to your circumstances or how you acquired the hearing loss. However, you can get hearing aids for free.
In the UK, the public health company called NHS, located in the hospitals throughout the country, provides free hearing aids for those who qualify based on their hearing assessment. Subsequently, NHS will loan free hearing aids. However, you don’t get to choose which hearing aids you’d like or have access to the top-of-the-line hearing aids. Instead, you’ll get the basics and be limited to a few hearing aid brands. So, free might not be the best device to help you hear better.
Yes, in the UK, like the US, they provide a safe service for people living in a home. The local fire department can visit and offer a sensory fire alarm to help set up an alarm.
In Canada, most of the equipment and devices are given for free based on income through various non-profits like March of Dimes or government programs like Nova Scotia for deaf and hard-of-hearing workers.
The quick answer is yes and no. Most provinces will cover partial cost of hearing aids for adults, but children under 19 can get free hearing aids. However, in Quebec, you can get free hearing aids and assistive devices if you are working or a student.
Down Under, like the UK, provides free hearing aids for some but free assistive listening devices where needed. Smoke alarms that come with a flashing light and vibrating pad are not for free but at a reduced cost from $629 to $50.
When you are reminded that some people around the world are living on less than $10 a day. Their income is not enough to even begin to consume any of the free equipment that I shared in this article. I reflect and realize how privileged we are to be able to get free stuff to begin with. Yet, access should be for everyone on this planet, and by growing wealth for better equality.
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