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Hearing Health Plays Role at the Special Olympics

The Special Olympics for Special Competitors

The Special Olympics is the brainchild of Eunice Kennedy Shriver who started a day camp at her home for young people with special needs. All were welcomed and friendly competition was part of each day’s fun.

The Special Olympics went global on July 20, 1968 at Soldier Field in Chicago with the First International Special Olympics, and each year more athletes from more countries compete in the numerous events. These are serious athletes who work hard to develop their skills and talents, whether it’s the weightlifting competition or the 100-yard dash – every competitor is a winner – a well-trained winner.

Today, more than 2.5 million athletes compete in over 180 countries around the world – a movement that will continue to grow thanks to the vision of one woman.

The Olympian Problem of Hearing Loss

Imagine the excitement of competing in the Olympic games – swimming, track and field, and gymnastics. Now imagine not being able to hear your teammates, your coaches, the trainers or even the judges.

Imagine not being able to hear the crowd roar at your achievement. These are just some of the problems athletes with hearing loss must deal with.

In 1998 the Special Olympics Healthy Athlete program implemented the Healthy Hearing initiative to ensure adequate hearing health for all participating athletes. Prior to competing athletes go through a basic hearing screening to rule out if hearing loss is a concern.

According to the Special Olympics Health Hearing initiative, the purposes of the pre-competition hearing screen include:

  • determining if hearing loss is present
  • notifying the athlete and coaches of required care, including after care
  • providing athletes with protective gear like ear plugs for swimmers
  • study the prevalence and impact of hearing loss on athletes performance
  • encourage healthy participation at whatever level the athlete can achieve

Since the program was implemented 20.5% of participating athletes have been identified as having hearing loss – 1 in 5 athletes. Of those identified 85% were due to middle ear problems and 15% due to sensorineural hearing loss.

Gold Medal Performance

Our Special Olympians demonstrate the Olympic spirit in their training and competition, in their determination and their sportsmanship.

Hearing loss won’t prevent these boys and girls, men and women from competing and going all out. Quit just isn’t in them.

Be a fan of dignity. Be a fan of inspiration. Be a fan of inclusion. Be a fan of the Special Olympics. And thanks to the Special Olympics Healthy Hearing program, they can’t wait to hear you cheer. 

To learn more about the Special Olympics Healthy Hearing program, Visit HealthyHearing for a full featured article on Hearing Health at the Special Olympics: Goin For Gold

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