What? Can you repeat that, please? Yes, May is Better Hearing and Speech month. Let’s participate by celebrating the two projections on the side of our head that do so much despite being so little. The importance our ears play in activities of daily living is often overlooked or taken for granted. From infancy, we utilize sounds to get our needs met and learn about the world around us. Hearing loss can have detrimental impacts on a child’s ability to learn and develop speech and language, as well as safety concerns.
Early intervention efforts, such as newborn hearing screening programs, aim to identify hearing loss before 6 months of age. While these screenings are routinely implemented across the nation, “data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that half of the newborns who fail a routine hearing screening do not get further diagnostic testing to determine whether their hearing is impaired or normal. Of the newborns diagnosed with hearing problems, more than 30 percent do not receive early intervention services” (Medicaid.gov,n.d.). Even a mild hearing loss can put these children at risk for academic underachievement.
Why are these numbers so high? Well intentioned parents are often convinced that their young ones can hear because they can localize sound. Hearing loss may also easily go unnoticed in both children and adults. Noise-induced hearing loss may occur gradually across the life-span. Young adults may choose not to report their symptoms, instead they simply turn up the volume on their personal devices. Parents do not realize how a mild hearing loss limits access to many speech sounds, directly impacting the child’s ability to learn speech, develop language and succeed academically.
There is also a misconception floating around that hearing loss is a problem that only affects the elderly. Statistics indicate that most people with hearing loss are under the age of 65. The Better Hearing Institute affirms that “there are more than six million people in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 44 with hearing loss, and nearly one a half million are school age.” In fact, “hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the United States,” affecting at least 36 million Americans (American Academy of Audiology).
It’s no wonder a month is dedicated to increasing awareness and providing education on speech and hearing services. Hearing Loss is a health problem that a lot can be done for. Hearing screenings, reducing exposure to loud noises, and hearing aids (once a problem has been detected) are just some options for hearing health. Encourage your loved ones to get screened and to follow through with the audiologists recommendations.
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American Academy of Audiology (n.d.). Facts About Hearing Loss. Retrieved from http://www.audiology.org/publications-resources/consumetr-information/fact-sheetsf
Better Hearing Institute (2017). Prevalence of Hearing Loss. Retrieved from http://www.betterhearing.org/hearingpedia/prevalence-hearing-loss
Medicaid.gov (n.d.). Vision and Hearing Screening Services for Children and Adolescents.