Hearing aids for people living with deafblindness

May 15, 2011 by Joey Champagne

Hearing aids for people living with deafblindness

People with deafblindness live with a hearing and a visual impairment. Since their vision provides little access to essential visual cues, maximizing the use of the auditory information from their surroundings is of the utmost importance.

To help individuals with deafblindness, the RAMQ’s program covers the purchase, adjustment and repair costs of two hearing aids, based on certain eligibility criteria.

Wearing two hearing aids improves spatial sound localization, i.e. helps determine where the sound is coming from. This is very important to ensure the safety of people with deafblindness. In fact, hearing aids enable people to localize the proximity of motor vehicles, as well as hear the audio signals that indicate when it is safe for pedestrians to cross the road. Speechreading may prove difficult or even impossible for people with deafblindness, but wearing two hearing aids can improve speech intelligibility.

Hearing aid programming must be adapted to the specific needs of the person with deafblindness. This is why, at the time of programming, the audioprosthetist sets the microphones to omni-directional mode, enabling the wearer to experience 360o surround sound. The accompanying remote also provides access to different functions and facilitates the manipulation of controls, such as volume adjustment and binaural listening to the television or telephone via Bluetooth technology.

The following are a few suggestions that can help people with deafblindness manipulate hearing aids more easily:

  • Choose a different colour for the battery drawer than for the hearing aid housing or faceplate; the contrast makes it easier to locate the battery drawer.
  • Choose red for the canal piece of the right hearing aid and blue for the left, for quick identification.
  • Suggest that the wearer use a magnetic wax loop to facilitate battery replacement.

Don’t hesitate to contact your audioprosthetist at one of the Lobe Santé auditive et communication multidisciplinary clinics for more information.

The RAMQ’s eligibility criteria to qualify as a person with deafblindness are twofold:

Visual impairment

Generally, the definition of visual impairment is based on one or more of the following parameters:

  • Visual acuity in each eye is less than 6 metres/21 metres (20 feet/70 feet), after appropriate correction measures have been taken (eyeglasses or contact lenses);
  • Visual acuity is less than or equal to 6 metres/18 metres (20 feet/60 feet) for people with a degenerative visual disease or associated mobility, hearing, speech or organic disability;
  • Persons whose visual field in each eye is less than 60o;
  • Persons with complete hemianopsia.
The above-mentioned criteria must be evaluated by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

Hearing impairment

According to the RAMQ’s program, persons with a visual and hearing impairment may be eligible for binaural aid if they meet the following conditions:

  • Demonstrate visual impairment as prescribed under subparagraph h.3 of the first paragraph of section 69 of the Health Insurance Act, where such a deficiency justifies the use of a second hearing aid.
The recommendation for binaural aid is issued by an audiologist after having completed a hearing assessment on the person with a hearing impairment.

Deafblindness

Following the assessment process, the recognition of deafblindness is issued by the visual rehabilitation centre in your region. Quebec has 12 recognized establishments (in different regions). The recognition calculation takes into account the degree of hearing and visual loss.

References available upon request.