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Vision, hearing loss: Support groups combine

For about 10 years, Bemidji has offered a Vision Loss Support Group spearheaded by Karin Hanson and Margaret Butz.

Now, because for many older people the conditions go together, the support group is the Vision and Hearing Loss Support Group.

"Vision and hearing loss are invisible disabilities," Hanson said.

She said 60 percent of older people have both disabilities.

The next Vision and Hearing Loss Support Group meeting will be 11a.m. to 12:30 p.m. June 8 at Birch Haven Village, 1700 Norton Ave. N.W.

Most meetings feature an informative program, Butz and Hanson said.

For example, Butz said, "Travel agents will give us some tips on traveling when your vision is impaired."

"Our emphasis in both impairments is learning how to live with it," Hanson said.

The support group also helps people connect with state services for the blind and deaf.

The program this week was Kathy Judkins, consultant for the Minnesota Department of Human Services Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division. She said the number of people who experience hearing loss is expected to significantly increase as the population ages.

She provided a hearing loss home modification checklist.

For example, some doorbells and smoke detectors also flash a light, the Telephone Equipment Distribution Program lends specialized equipment to people in Minnesota, and personal amplifiers are portable and can be placed near televisions, radio and stereos. She said people with hearing loss can sometimes hear better in some rooms than others. Acoustical tiles can prevent sound bouncing off walls and allow the person with hearing loss understand speech better.