To assess visual performance and the effects of color overlays on reading in children who were deaf and children who could hear.
Thirty-one children who were deaf (mean [±SD] age, 14 [±1.99] years) and 39 children who could hear (mean [±SD] age, 13.58 [±3.09] years) underwent an optometric examination with specific emphasis on near vision. Participants chose an overlay with color optimal for clarity and comfort and completed the Wilkins Rate of Reading Test both with and without an overlay of this color. Nineteen of the participants who were deaf were retested a year later with a modified rate of reading test that used only words that can readily be signed. This modified rate of reading test was repeated 1 week after its first administration.
Participants who were deaf had greater ametropia (p = 0.003), a more distant near point of convergence (p = 0.002), and reduced amplitude of accommodation (p < 0.001) compared with normal-hearing participants. All the children who were deaf chose a color overlay, with 45% choosing a yellow overlay, which increased the rate of reading by 18%. Only 66% of the participants who could hear chose an overlay, and it had no effect on reading speed. With the modified reading test, 7 of 19 (37%) again chose yellow. These participants showed a 9% increase in reading speed with the yellow overlay, which was repeatable 1 week later. The remainder showed no increase in rate of reading with their chosen overlay.
An eye examination of children who are deaf needs to include a comprehensive assessment of near visual function so that deficiencies of amplitude of accommodation, near point convergence, and ametropia can be treated. A yellow overlay improved reading speed in the participants who were deaf, whereas other colors did not, a finding at variance with earlier work on hearing populations.