Camp Lester, Kadena schoolkids get vision and hearing exams
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Some 550 pupils have been referred for follow-up testing and care after vision and hearing screenings were given to about 2,200 children in 10 Department of Defense Dependents Schools on Okinawa last month, health officials said.
Health care officials said such screenings can help doctors catch problems in children in time for more effective treatment.
Kindergartners at some of the DODDS schools on the island, and first-, fourth- and seventh-graders at all of them, were screened by optometrists and audiologists from U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa on Camp Lester and the 18th Medical Group on Kadena Air Base, said Navy Lt. Charles Charbonneau, optometrist at USNH.
“We want to identify vision problems early so we can … prevent permanent disability with early intervention,” he said. “If you don’t pick up certain problems by age 7, the problem can’t be treated as effectively. For example, if someone has ‘lazy eye’ and you catch it before age 7, you can usually fix it. If you don’t catch it, you can’t.”
The optometrists tested students for numerous conditions, Charbonneau said, including far-sightedness, near-sightedness, astigmatism, depth perception, color vision, binocular alignment and overall health problems in the eyes.
Audiologists also gave the students hearing tests, said Tara Taylor, school nurse at Zukeran Elementary School, where the last screenings were held. Taylor said students with unidentified hearing problems could face difficulties in school.
“In our arena, it could lead to educational delays,” she said. “Hearing is a huge component of speech … if you’re not hearing it correctly, it tends to come out wrong. Articulation is definitely a factor.”
Not all students who initially failed the hearing screening needed to seek further care, Taylor said. Some failures were due simply to wax build-up in the ears that needed cleaning out.
When vision problems were found, Charbonneau said, students were referred to either the hospital or clinic on Kadena for a comprehensive eye exam. Taylor said students who failed hearing tests would be rescreened automatically. Those who failed such retesting, she said, would be referred for follow-up care to the Navy hospital’s Educational and Developmental Intervention Services on Kadena.
Charbonneau said about 25 percent of students who took the vision tests were referred for follow-up care while about 10 percent were asked to seek further care for audiology.
This is the second year doctors have performed the mass screenings at all elementary and middle schools on island, he said, adding that doctors screen every three grade levels to ensure all children are tested at least once during their parents’ three-year tour. Charbonneau said health officials hope to carry on the screenings in future.