The Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing has instituted May as the Better Speech and Hearing Month. The commission is trying to bring awareness to hard-of-hearing residents to the state and urge screenings for those who think they may be suffering.

Locally, Christian County Public Schools provide an Individualized Education Plan for students with disabilities which may include students with hearing impairments.

According to a Commonwealth of Kentucky Education & Workforce Development Cabinet release, nearly 700,000 or 16% of Kentuckians are deaf and hard of hearing.

"Nearly 700,000 or 16 percent of Kentuckians are deaf and hard of hearing," the release stated.

As a part of Better Speech and Hearing Month, KCDHH encourages everyone to be aware of the signs of hearing loss and learn about resources available to Kentuckians if a hearing loss is suspected, the release stated. Hearing loss is most commonly caused by exposure to loud noises including: power equipment, car stereos, concerts, personal audio devices and fireworks.

"Whether it's a child who misses the language exposure that is critical for brain and communication development, or an adult who experiences career, social and quality-of-life issues, ignoring hearing loss can negatively affect your well-being, cognitive skills, mental health and even your heart health," said KCDHH Executive Director Virginia L. Moore in a statement.

Over time, hearing loss affects adults. The news release said that friends and family may notice it before you will.

For children, the signs are different. The release said that parents should look for delayed or abnormal speech development, inattention and poor performance at school.

If those symptoms are noticeable, parents can ask a pediatrician to perform a hearing screening, or request a hearing screening by an audiologist.

If hearing screenings are positive, CCPS has help on hand.

"CCPS employs two Deaf and Hard of Hearing teachers and we provide interpreting services to those students needing the services," said Michelle Ladd, CCPS director of special education and pre-school.

The KCDHH advises that to avoid hearing loss, you should wear hearing protection, turn down the volume on devices like headphones and walk away from loud noise.

"Noise-induced hearing loss is the most permanent and preventable occupational injury, according to the World Health Organization," the report stated.

Farmers, construction workers and manufacturing workers are at the highest risk of hearing damage.

For more information about KCDHH, visit www.kcdhh.ky.gov.

Reach Jon Russelburg at 270-887-3241 or jrusselburg@kentuckynewera.com

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