Assistive Technology has come a long way since the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. Vibrating alarm clocks, amplified telephones, personal listening devices, flashing doorbells, telephone signalers, infrared TV listening systems, cell phone signalers, flashing and vibrating home safety devices are now smaller and wireless. The newer technology is also easier to install and much more reliable. Speak & Read telephones or VCO (voice carry over) allows people with hearing loss and deafness to read what is being said but still answer with their voice. Video phones provide a deaf individual the ability to speak face-to-face in their own language, ASL. Both of these devices are part of the improvements made in assistive technology in the last decade.
Other products such as vibrating/flashing Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide
Detectors help to alleviate the worry and stress of a fire or gas leak going undetected in the night. Amplified Stethoscopes help those with hearing loss in the medical community to continue to perform routine exams helping to maintaining their employment. Patient’s in hospitals are no longer isolated because of their inability to hear due to hospitals instituting “ADA Hospital Kits” containing much of the technology mentioned above.
Assistive Technology can also allow a person, especially seniors, to feel safe in their environment, keep in touch with loved ones and in many cases maintain their independence. A study by John Hopkins and National Institute on Aging suggests that seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing. They also speculate that hearing loss could lead to dementia by making individuals more socially isolated, a known risk factor for dementia and other cognitive disorders. Research suggest that a device as simple as a personal amplifier or a hearing aid can delay the progression of dementia for a person with hearing loss by improving an individual’s hearing and help them to maintain social connections and relations with peers and family.
Hearing loss not only affects seniors but millions of people of all age groups worldwide. Different types of assistive technology can help millions of Americans across many different age ranges. The social isolation that can happen due to hearing loss or deafness can lead to emotional difficulties such as frustration, anger, sadness and social withdrawal for people of all ages.
Adults who have hearing loss are often under- employed due to communication problem. Hearing loss in children can lead to delays in speech, language, academic, and social development and behavioral problems if appropriate intervention services do not begin in a timely fashion.
Assistive technology such as Personal FM systems can help enhance a child’s learning and an adult’s performance in classroom or employment situations by allowing clearer and easier hearing. There are also Large Area Listening Systems that help people with hearing problems to overcome background noise and distance in large forums such as churches, auditoriums and theaters. This technology often ensures a more enjoyable and improved listening experience.
Assistive technology can improve one’s quality of life in many ways – environmentally, socially, and mentally. Unfortunately, in most cases there are no funding sources to pay for these products. Government resources are less to assist consumers in need and insurances do not pay for these devices. Some resources or lending programs do exist however. Consumers may want to contact the Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Fund, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Telecommunication Device Distribution Program or Family Links to see if they fit into each program’s criteria. Please see the links below.
Home and work assessments are available for a fee. Call today to make an appointment, order by phone or internet: Center for Hearing and Deaf Services, Inc. Online Store
1. TDDP: www.disabilities.temple.edu/tddp
2. OVR: www.dli.state.pa.us
3. Family Links: www.familylinks.org
4. Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation: www.patf.us (888) 744-1938