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March 23.2015

Newswise — Harris Health System is now using sign language video technology to better communicate with its hearing-impaired and hard-of-hearing patients. Connecting patients with physicians and nurses in a timely and convenient manner is one of the driving forces behind the new portable interpretation service.

New iPad®-equipped wheeled carts (similar to rolling blood-pressure stands) act as in-person translators of American Sign Language for patients and staff at a moment’s notice. The program has four such carts complete with speakers and audio enhancement capability at Harris Health’s Ben Taub, Quentin Mease and Lyndon B. Johnson hospitals.

“One of the greatest advantages of using this new technology in clinical settings is its on-demand availability,” says Graciela Zozaya, manager, Harris Health Interpretation Services. “This means less waiting time for patients and better time management efficiency for providers and staff.”

In the past, Harris Health used a service that provided in-person interpreters at a cost up to $105 an hour. The higher cost was assessed for calls requested urgently, during off-business hours or on weekends. All requests were charged a minimum of two hours.

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February 04, 2015

Among dying hospice patients, hearing problems are often overlooked, but shouldn’t be, experts say.Families and physicians frequently mistake hearing loss for dementia among the elderly and terminally ill, said Barbara Weinstein, a professor of audiology at the City University of New York.

The Institute of Medicine’s recent report, Dying in America, outlined core components of quality end-of-life care, many of which are tied to patients’ ability to listen and communicate: patient counseling; distress management; attention to social, cultural and religious needs and assessment of physical and emotional well-being.

But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80 percent of Americans age 85 and older have hearing impairments. And Medicare and the Medicare Hospice Benefit do not cover hearing aids, which can cost between $1600 and $3500 each.

Hospices might be able to work “with resources in the community if there was a patient with a need for hearing aids,” said Judi Lund Person, Vice-President of Regulatory Affairs for the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Athens, Ohio-based audiologist Bethany Gonczy started one such community program within her Diles Hearing Center to loan hearing aids to hospice patients. She saw a need after treating cancer patients who lost hearing due to chemotherapy or pain regimens.

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The Justice Department announced today a settlement with Franciscan St. James Health (St. James), to ensure that patients and companions who are deaf or hard of hearing receive sign language interpreters and other services necessary to ensure effective communication, in compliance with Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the agreement, St. James will pay $70,000 in damages to a patient who is deaf who was denied a sign language interpreter throughout her four day stay in the hospital. The settlement also requires that St. James provide auxiliary aids and services, including sign language interpreters, to people who are deaf or hard of hearing within prescribed time frames and free of charge; designate an ADA Administrator; utilize their grievance resolution systems to investigate disputes regarding effective communication with deaf and hard of hearing patients; post notices of their effective communication policy; and train hospital personnel on the effective communication reqwuirements of the ADA. The settlement is part of the Department's Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative, a partnership of the Civil Rights Division and U. S. Attorney's offices across the nation to ensure that people with disabilities, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing, who have HIV, or who have mobility disabilities, have equal access to medical services.

To find out more about this settlement agreement or about the ADA, please visit our ADA website at  For more information on the Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative visit Those interested in finding out more about the ADA may also call the Justice Department's toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD).

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1st National Guideline for Sudden Hearing Loss PublishedBy Kristin Hopson, PRWeb, 3/19/2012The first national treatment guideline for sudden hearing loss, a frightening condition that sends thousands in the U.S. to the emergency room each year, was published this month in the journal Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery.

The guideline was developed by a 19-member panel led by Robert J. Stachler, M.D., an otolaryngologist in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

“In most cases, patients will have multiple visits with several physicians and undergo extensive testing before a diagnosis is made. There’s also been a lack of one or more uniformly accepted treatments, or a consensus on how to counsel patients who do not fully recover their hearing,” says Dr. Stachler.

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