Partnership to help hearing-impaired

Published 10:48 am Thursday, March 17, 2016

By Carson Reeher

Special to The Farmville Herald

A recently announced partnership will allow those across the Heart of Virginia who struggle with hearing loss to access special equipment to improve the quality of their lives.

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Longwood University, Virginia Relay and the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (VDDHH) have announced a new pairing to bring no-cost telecommunications equipment to eligible residents in and around Farmville. The equipment will be provided through Virginia’s Technology Assistance Program (TAP). 

“About 36 million Americans struggle with hearing loss,” said Dr. Mani Aguilar, a clinical audiologist at Longwood University.

The devices assist individuals whose disability prevents them from being able to use a standard telephone or hear an alarm clock or doorbell. The partnership will be available to qualified residents who are deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind or have difficulty speaking. There are also eligibility requirements related to household income and family size. Minors are eligible as well, but must have a signature from a parent or guardian.

Graduate student Kayla Stramat demonstrates how to use a captioned telephone and flashing alarm clock.

Graduate student Kayla Stramat demonstrates how to use a captioned telephone and flashing alarm clock.

Clayton Bowen, technology programs manager of Virginia Relay, said, “The Farmville area has historically been a difficult area for us to serve, with the closest outreach office being in Richmond. With the new TAP site at Longwood, area residents have an accessible venue in their community to test and receive the latest technology.”

Longwood will function as Farmville’s outreach site. Members of the community are now able to visit Longwood University’s Speech, Hearing and Learning Services (SHLS) office to apply for TAP equipment and view demonstrations of the devices. 

Graduate students from the

university’s Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSDS) program will evaluate those interested to help find the devices best suited to meet their needs.  Longwood’s clinical and faculty supervisors will oversee the evaluations and supervise the graduate students. They are nationally certified and Commonwealth of Virginia-licensed audiology professionals.

“Longwood students may benefit in several ways,” Aguilar said. “In our undergraduate and graduate classes, our CSDS students learn about the TAP devices and the VDDHH application process. The CSDS graduate students in speech-language pathology have an opportunity to demonstrate and fit the TAP devices with individuals from our community. “

Moriah Mayhew, one of Longwood’s CSDS graduate students, said that she has learned “how to assist others in a manner that is suitable for their daily life.” She said, “It’s not just one answer for everybody.”

Longwood is one of 12 TAP locations in Virginia. However, it is the only site hosted by a state university.

In regards to having a university audiology department as a TAP site, VDDHH Director Ron Lanier said the department was, “thrilled with the results. Now that the talented students and staff at Longwood University are part of our outreach team, we are better able to serve the deaf and hard-of-hearing community in Farmville and the surrounding areas.”

Examples of devices available through the program, said Aguilar, include, “amplified telephones, captioned telephones (which allow the person to both hear and read what is being said), small personal amplifiers that can be used with headphones or ear buds, flashing alarms that allow the person to be alerted visually that there is someone at their front door and others.”

So far, about 15 devices have been distributed to members of the community.

Bowen, said, “Based on the preliminary numbers, we project an excess of 100 annually.”

To learn more about TAP, visit Residents of the Farmville area who would like assistance applying for equipment through TAP may contact Aguilar at the Longwood Speech, Hearing and Learning Services Center at (434) 395-2341 or at