Each May, professionals and organizations in the communication sciences dedicate the month to raising awareness about communication disorders. The goal is to educate the public regarding the impact of these disorders as well as treatment options and research that can improve the outcomes for individuals touched by hearing loss, voice, speech and language disorders. This year the theme is “Communication: the key to connection.” Communication is such a vital part of our everyday lives and it is what connects us to each other. A deficit in either speech or hearing can negatively impact this crucial activity.
Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the United States, with 37.5 million people reporting some degree of hearing loss. Yet often this issue is left untreated, leading to higher rates of depression, feelings of isolation and frustration for these individuals. New research has also linked a higher risk of dementia for people with untreated hearing loss.
Hearing health is significantly more important than once thought. Fortunately, most forms of hearing loss are successfully treated with the expertise and care of a hearing health professional, such as an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) physician and an audiologist. While an ENT physician can manage any underlying medical condition of the hearing loss (i.e. fluid in the middle ear, abnormal middle ear pressure, problem with the bones of the middle ear), the audiologist can recommend and provide aural rehabilitation or assistive devices, such as hearing aids, to compensate for a loss in function. Both professionals will work with the patient to develop a treatment plan to address the individual’s medical and communication needs.
So what are some ways you can participate in Better Hearing and Speech Month?
Get your hearing checked!
It is never too early for a hearing test. Just as you get your eyes and teeth checked regularly, add a regular hearing test too!
- Go to https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/hearing-test-widget for a screening.
Be aware of loud noise
- Concerned if a noise could be damaging to your hearing? Remember these options: Walk away, turn it down, wear hearing protection. Have a smartphone? There are many free apps that will let you know if the environment could damage your hearing.
Practice good communication
- Sit facing towards your communication partner
- Use good lighting
- Keep background noise and other distractions to a minimum
- Don’t just say “WHAT?” if you missed something–use repair strategies
- Ask your partner to rephrase what they said
- Repeat back what you did hear
If you or a loved one suspects a hearing problem, call our office at 616-994-2770 to schedule a hearing and communication assessment with one of our Doctors of Audiology. For more information about hearing loss, communication disorders or Better Hearing and Speech Month visit the following websites.