SALT LAKE CITY — Each year, 150 children in Utah are born with hearing problems, and the cost of hearing aids prohibits many of them from ever fully experiencing the world around them.

That is where used hearing aids come in handy. The Utah Department of Health Hearing Aid Recycling Program is collecting them for people who can't afford new ones or don't qualify for help from other state agencies.

"If a family can pay for a new hearing aid, they probably can't qualify for Medicaid, so it's truly being caught between a rock and a hard place," said Richard Harward, director of UDOH's Children's Hearing and Speech Services. Being able to help children to hear is essential in the developmental process.

"Without appropriate amplification, a young child may not develop speech and language normally or perform well in school," Harward said. "I think people would be amazed by what we can do with used hearing aids."

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Since hearing aids can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 and more, depending on features and power requirements, they are out of reach for many families. The used devices, regardless of their condition, can be reconditioned for use, sold for salvage or sent to a manufacturer for credit toward the purchase of new hearing aids.

To make a donation or to see if a child qualifies for the program, call 801-584-8215. Used hearing aids can then be sent to: Children's Hearing and Speech Services, 44 N. Mario Capecchi Drive, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84113. Donors will receive a stamped envelope to properly enclose and protect the devices during the mailing process.