Assistance available for people with significant hearing loss

Assistance available for people with significant hearing loss

WINCHESTER — It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t have a friend or family member who is deaf or has significant hearing loss.

To help people understand the challenges faced by those who are hard of hearing, the World Federation of the Deaf has designated the last full week of September as International Deaf Week.

One of Winchester’s leading advocates for area residents with profound hearing loss is Donna Day, the deaf and hard-of-hearing specialist with Winchester nonprofit Access Independence.

You won’t find a better subject matter expert than Day. This is because she has been deaf since she got chickenpox and suffered from a high fever when she was one year old. As she grew, she adapted by learning lip-reading and American Sign Language.

“I grew up in school, so I had to learn to lip-read,” Day said, but that skill didn’t help much when his teachers turned their backs on the class. . “When I got to college, I had a sign language interpreter. I had no idea how much I loved history! I was like, ‘Boy, I’ve missed a lot.'”

Day said she also wore a digital hearing aid that allowed her to hear words and sounds she hadn’t heard since she was a baby.

“I was hearing a beep in my house and I was trying to follow it because I didn’t know what it was. It was the beep from the microwave,” she said with a smile. “I heard cicadas for the first time. It was driving me crazy!”

Day said advances in technology such as digital hearing aids and closed captioning for TV programs have been a blessing for the hearing impaired, but people with significant hearing loss still face daily challenges that others don’t. not understand. For example, not everyone who is deaf can read lips, and unless you are talking to someone who knows sign language, it can be difficult to do basic things like order food in a restaurant or ask for help finding an item in a store.

On the other hand, there are deaf people who don’t know sign language and can only read lips. For them, COVID-19 was a curse because face masks covered most people’s mouths for months.

“Some said, ‘I’m not going anywhere, I’m staying home,'” Day said. “They’re starting to come out now.”

Another form of hearing loss makes it difficult to distinguish the voice of a person speaking when they are in a noisy area. Since it’s not always possible to ask everyone to quiet down, “We have devices like ‘pocket speakers’ that help a bit with the background noise,” Day said, referring to the systems. personal assisted listening devices available from Access Independence.

Devices offered by the nonprofit’s assistive technology program for the hearing impaired are available at no cost to military veterans and people who meet the program’s income requirements. For those who earn too much to qualify for a free phone, alarm clock, doorbell, or other adaptive device, the equipment may be sold at a discount or the nonprofit organization will help the claimant find an affordable option from another seller.

A great way to learn more about Access Independence’s services for the deaf and hard of hearing is to attend one of its upcoming community events:

  • From 4-6 p.m. today, a free sign language party for hearing and non-hearing adults will be held at the West Oaks Farm Market at 4305 Middle Road near Winchester. Beginners and advanced users of American Sign Language are encouraged to brush up on their skills or learn new ones in order to communicate more effectively.
  • The nonprofit’s first annual fundraiser, Fall Ramp Up, will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Access Independence at 324 Hope Drive in Winchester. The gathering will provide information on all of the services the organization offers to people with physical or cognitive disabilities, and will also include raffles, hot corn, a roll cake, food and drink for purchase, a children’s area and a wheelchair obstacle course.
  • A Deaf and Hard of Hearing Awareness Open House will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on October 17 at Access Independence. Day will tell attendees about devices offered by the nonprofit to help people with hearing loss and their families. RSVPs are required, so if you want to attend, call 540-931-9124 or email

For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, the world is much easier to live in today than it was 20 or 30 years ago. In addition to the myriad of technological devices available to people who are hard of hearing, Day said there is also more awareness and understanding in the deaf community.

“They’re so friendly now,” she said of people meeting a deaf person. “Some of them learned sign language. I saw a lot of that.”

When asked for advice to share with people meeting someone who is deaf for the first time, Day said the key is to be patient and accepting.

“Don’t say, ‘I’ll tell you later’ or ‘It’s nothing important,'” she said. “We hate it. We want to know what everyone’s talking about.”

To learn more about Access Independence and the services it provides to area residents with physical and cognitive disabilities, visit

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