When the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) first designated May as Better Hearing and Speech month 85 years ago, Charles Lindbergh flew The Spirit of St. Louis solo and nonstop across the Atlantic, work had just begun on Mt. Rushmore and the first electrical hearing aids made their debut. These hearing aids were large and difficult to transport, and the large, carbon batteries were sensitive to heat and cold. Today's hearing aids fit inside the ear canal and are compatible with popular wireless technology, such as telephones, computers and MP3 devices.
Better Hearing and Speech month began in 1927 as a way to call attention to communication impairments and encourage individuals to seek help if they think they have a problem. Ronald Reagan, who also was hearing impaired, signed a proclamation in 1986 officially designating May as the month to heighten public awareness about hearing loss and speech disorders. More than 28 million Americans suffer from some form of hearing loss, although only seven million actually wear hearing aids. It's estimated the number of people affected by hearing loss will rise to 1.1 billion by 2015.
During Better Hearing and Speech month, community groups and organizations typically offer hearing-related activities, free screenings and other education. The Better Hearing Institute is offering an online hearing test to help individuals determine if they need a more comprehensive evaluation by a hearing health professional. Many manufacturers also offer incentives on hearing aids and new hearing technology.
Hearing impairments affect people of all ages and socio-economic status. In addition to former president Ronald Reagan, famous individuals and celebrities with hearing loss include: musician Huey Lewis, NFL Football Hall of Famer Mike Singletary, actor/athlete Lou Ferrigno and 1995 Miss America Heather Whitestone.
Symptoms of hearing loss include: frequently asking people to repeat themselves, turning an ear toward sound to hear it more clearly and keeping the television or radio at a volume that others find too loud. A hearing evaluation, administered by a credentialed audiologist, can determine the level of hearing loss and the recommended treatment. Hearing aids are credited for helping restore 90% of hearing impairments. Further, 90% of those who use hearing aids experience better quality of life.
Hearing health professionals say progression of untreated hearing loss can accelerate, while those who have their hearing loss treated can keep the impairment from getting worse. Those with hearing loss are more likely to experience depression and anxiety. Because extra energy is required to compensate for a hearing impairment, those with untreated hearing loss typically take more sick days than other employees.
For more information on finding a hearing care professional or to read reviews on clinics near you, check the Healthy Hearing directory of more than 4,700 providers.