In 1927, the month was designated Better Hearing and Speech Month to raise awareness about the causes and treatments of hearing loss and speech impediments. Then in May 1986, President Ronald Reagan issued a formal proclamation designating May as the official month to “heighten public awareness.”
In the year 1986, there was an estimated 20 million Americans with hearing loss. Today, 20% of Americans (about 48 million people) report some degree of hearing loss. Sixty percent of the people with hearing loss are either in the work force or in educational settings. Two to three of every 1,000 children have some degree of hearing loss. Thirty school children per 1,000 have hearing loss. One in five teenagers experience some degree of hearing loss, of which 80% is caused by loud noise. No surprise, with the cumulated effects from amplified music, sound systems at home and in the theaters and the growing use of personal listening devises that can blow your hearing away. About 2.3 million veterans have or have been treated for hearing-related issues.
Hearing loss is one of the most commonly unaddressed health conditions in America today, even though it ranks with arthritis, high blood pressure and heart disease. Hearing loss impacts a person’s quality of life. It has been linked to stress, depression, loneliness, reduced job performance, and a reduction in physical and mental health.
Furthermore, hearing loss is not a one-way street; it also affects relationships with family members, close friends and co-workers who also are experiencing life-altering situations by being involved with someone with hearing loss. This can and will have an adverse effect — especially on close relationships such as husband and wife. The closer the relationship, the greater the effect is; just ask my wife. In June, it will be 50-plus years since my wife made the choice to join hands with a hearing-impaired mate, walking hand-in-hand on the journey with hearing loss, who has met the challenge and has been an inspiration to all during our walk through the valleys and over the mountain tops.
Why did I write this? To create awareness. To help the public recognize that hearing loss is a major health issue, to become educated on the signs and symptoms. I wouldn’t be sitting here today if it wasn’t for my boss when I was first starting out in my career. He pulled me aside and, from his observation of how I was responding to others, suggested I should have my hearing checked. I did, and I was fitted with my first hearing aid — all because he knew the signs and symptoms of hearing loss.
That is why I feel it is so important to become educated on the signs and symptoms, and why it is vital in not only protecting one’s own hearing before it gets worse but also for family members, friends or co-workers to understand how to help the person with hearing loss recognize he or she has hearing loss, and the importance of having his or her hearing tested, and also understand the kinds of problems related to hearing loss and how to work through them.
Those with hearing loss live within the hearing community, and when hearing aids are not enough, they can experience feelings of isolation. What is out there to bridge the gap? What is out there to help recognize the signs and symptoms of hearing loss? To emphasize the importance of getting hearing tested?
The most simple way to find answers is to go to the computer and type in “signs and symptoms of hearing loss” and check websites such as HLAA.org. The Hearing Loss Association of America is the nation’s foremost membership and advocacy organization for people with hearing loss with chapters in 38 states.
Hearing loss is not just a one month issue. It’s 24/365 issue, and what better time to recognize and put more emphasis on the value of bringing to light the effects that the invisible condition has on people lives.