Affinity Health Rallies For Deafblind South Africans

Deafblind Awareness Week
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As leading medical insurance in SA, Affinity Health raises awareness around the challenges of being deafblind.

What Does it Mean to be Deafblind?

Deaf-blindness is a rare condition in which a person’s hearing and vision are both impaired.This week (June 20-27), Deafblind International (DBI) Awareness Week is recognised worldwide. Imagine being in a world where you can neither see nor hear. Of all the challenges the deafblind community face, persecution should never be one of them.

Deafblind SA shares that 920 000 people in South Africa are deafblind. 0.2% of the world’s population is living with severe deafblindness. More than 70 causes of deaf-blindness were identified in the 2019 National Deaf-Blind Child Count. The most common are complications of prematurity and CHARGE syndrome, each causing about 10% of cases.

DBI is synonyms with the name Hellen Keller. Keller became blind and deaf after contracting an illness when she was two years old. Despite many obstacles, she became one of the 20th century’s leading humanitarians. She became the co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a beacon of courage and hope for those living with disabilities. 

In honour of Keller – and her birthday on June 27th – DBI is celebrated annually. It is a week dedicated to encouraging public recognition and compassion for the complex problems caused by deaf-blindness. 

Despite popular belief, a person who is deafblind will not be completely deaf and blind, but both senses will be impaired to the point where daily activities will be difficult.

The following are signs that someone may have a hearing problem:

  • If you speak to them from behind, they will not hear you
  • Having to increase the volume on the TV or radio
  • Difficulty following a conversation, especially if several people are talking at the same time 
  • Unable to hear sounds around them, such as a knock at the door or the doorbell ringing
  • Requesting that others speak more clearly, loudly, and slowly
  • Listening by leaning in close to hear what’s being said

Vision loss can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including:

  • Issues with vision in low or bright light
  • Having trouble recognising people they know
  • Having trouble deciphering facial expressions
  • Relying on touch more than usual to locate and identify items
  • Requiring close proximity to the television or holding books or newspapers close to their face
  • Difficulty moving around unfamiliar environments – they may collide with or trip over objects frequently
  • Not looking you in the eyes or maintaining proper eye contact

“Tragically, many children who are deafblind from birth are often either misdiagnosed or never diagnosed at all, remaining at home, deprived of their right to development, education, freedom of expression, and association,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health. “As these children grow older, exclusion and discrimination escalate.”

Affinity Health Recognises the Needs of Deafblind South Africans. 

As such, this medical health insurance provider offers members with disabilities a range of affordable health care options, including Day-to-Day and Hospital plans, annual health screening tests, regular check-ups, and access to Chronic Medication covered under the Chronic Essential Benefits.

“While it’s not always possible to treat the underlying causes of deaf-blindness, there is a range of care and support services available to help people with the condition, especially if diagnosed early. Every deafblind person is entitled to the best possible support,” concludes Hewlett.