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EWING TOWNSHIP – Recognizing May as Better Hearing and Speech Month, Department of Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez today visited the campus of the Marie Katzenbach School for the Deaf to highlight the broad range of equipment and technology available to deaf and hard of hearing residents to support their work and home lives.  The Ewing Township site is just one of the Department’s five regional demonstration centers.“There have been incredible advances in technology that allow people with hearing loss to live safely and independently,” said Velez. “This equipment ensures that work and community living are achievable and sustainable, even for individuals who are profoundly Deaf. Last year, more than 700 residents received equipment through the Department’s Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DDHH).”
Among the various devices, the Commissioner tested home safety mechanisms such as fire alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and baby cry alerts with built in strobe lights and visual flashers. Telecommunication instruments such as video phones, captioned phones and other assistive listening tools also were also on display.
In New Jersey, it is estimated that more than 850,000 children and adults have some type of hearing loss. These statistics keep the Department, together with its national and community partner organizations, working hard to promote hearing loss awareness, treatment and interventions. Ranging from slight to profound, hearing loss can change a person’s quality of life.  A diagnosis during the early years of life might affect speech and language development, school performance and social interaction.  Later in life, a loss of hearing could manifest in personal and professional obstacles. In some cases, it may place a person at risk for social isolation and depression.
“New Jersey mandates universal newborn hearing screenings because the detection of significant hearing loss would not be immediately obvious, otherwise,” said DDHH’s Director, David Alexander, who uses a cochlear implant and other hearing assistance technology at home and at work. “Regular screenings are essential to maintain hearing health. If, or when, any degree of hearing loss is determined, the Division can provide extensive information, training and technical assistance to individuals and their families, schools and employers.”
Once considered a byproduct of aging, hearing loss is affecting many more people. Among the generations that grew up with Walkmans or digital music players, doctors are seeing an increased number of patients in their twenties with hearing damage.
Hearing loss can occur slowly over time and the onset may be difficult to detect. The following examples can be used to generally assess hearing loss symptoms:
• Frequently asking people to repeat themselves.
• Turning your ear toward a sound to hear it better.
• Having pain or ringing in your ears.
• Keeping the volume of your music or TV at a level that others say is too loud.
These warning signs indicate the need for a hearing test by a licensed audiologist. The assessment procedures for hearing loss are simple and painless.  For people of all ages, the sooner hearing loss is detected, the more effectively it can be treated and intervention provided. Screenings should be done annually for children and periodically throughout adulthood. 
For more information about hearing health and hearing loss, visit DHS’ website or call 800-792-8339 V/TTY toll free in New Jersey.
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