Nine-year-old Ally Tumblin helped thousands of individuals with hearing deficiency by writing a letter to her local congressman to make it mandatory for insurance companies to cover hearing aid expenses.
Her letter reads, “Dear congressman Joe Neguse, my name is Ally Tumblin and I am in the third grade. I go to Mountview Elementary School in Broomfield.
“I was born without my right ear and no ear canvas. So, I am deaf in my right ear. I wear a hearing aid device called a bone conduction hearing aid that helps me hear better, but it is not covered under insurance.
“There are thousands of children and adults just like me who need this hearing device to hear better. Please help me advocate for hearing better by mandating hearing device coverage in Colorado for a bone conduction hearing aid. May is better hearing and speech month.”
Tumblin suffers from “microtia”, a congenital deformity where the pinna (external ear) is underdeveloped. She was born without a right ear and ear canal.
Less than three months later, Rep Neguse established Ally’s Act, H.R.5485, after receiving Ally’s letter. The bill would require the insurance companies to cover osseointegrated devices, including cochlear implants and BAHAs for children and adults, from birth to the age of 64. Coverage services would also cover hearing devices, surgery, upgrades, and associated costs.
Melissa Tumblin, Ally’s mother, expressed, “She was born via C-section and I remember my husband coming over to me teary-eyed and he said, ‘I think there’s something wrong with her ear.’ I immediately saw her sweet little smile and her face and I was so happy, but we were kind of shocked and our story is the same story as so many families.”
After conducting their own research, Tumblins’ parents found out that they could get a Bone Conduction Hearing Aid ‘BAHA’ device to help her hear better. Later on, they discovered that their insurance would not cover her BAHA despite it being medically necessary by the doctors.
When Ally was one years old, her parents acquired a BAHA device for her out of their own expense to prevent her from developing any speech or hearing disability.
Melissa Tumblin further added, “From birth to age three … that’s the critical years of development. Every medical professional knows that is the time the child’s speech and language and vocabulary skills are coming in and it’s critical to help them hear their best and for insurance providers to deny these hearing devices is ridiculous!”
A BAHA device needs to be upgraded or replaced every five years and can cost from $5000 to $12000 each. Ally’s Act has the potential to help tens of thousands of American citizens with hearing disabilities, ranging from the age of birth until the age of 64.
In a statement announcing the reintroduction of Ally’s Act in the US House of Representatives, Rep Joe Neguse said ” I’m incredibly grateful for Ally’s initiative and courage to bring this issue to my office so we could get to work on a legislative fix to address it.”
After seeing the legislation her letter inspired, Ally said ” I think it’s pretty cool! I’m excited and I think kids deserve to hear.”