October is Audiology Awareness Month
We hear a lot about the smells and sights of autumn, from pumpkin spice to the brightly colored leaves. But what about the sounds? Whether it’s leaves crunching, a crackling fire or the honking of geese overhead as they fly south for the winter, your hearing is also an integral part of your ability to enjoy the changing of the seasons. So, how’s your hearing?
October is National Audiology Awareness Month. The American Academy of Audiology is encouraging you to remember how important your hearing is to your daily life, along with encouraging hearing screenings and hearing protection.
The statistics on hearing loss are shocking. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 36 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss. Unfortunately the average amount of time a person with hearing loss wait to seek treatment after noticing a problem is between seven to 10 years. In that time, hearing can not only worsen significantly but can cause a variety of health and psychological problems such as cognitive impairment and depression.
The American Academy of Audiology started Audiology Awareness Month in 2008 as a means to bring awareness to hearing health as well as the importance of hearing protection. The Academy of Audiology, also known as AAA, exists to advance the profession of audiology by promoting awareness of audiology and educating the public about the importance of hearing protection. Every October, through distribution of materials, press releases and mp3 based radio spots, AAA strives to promote national awareness by encouraging audiologists across the country to take action in their local areas.
Audiology Awareness Month also serves to educate the public about the role of audiologists when it comes to hearing health care. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 13,000 audiologists in the U.S. in 2013. Audiologists are primary healthcare professionals who are licensed to evaluate, diagnose and treat hearing loss as well as balance disorders. Some may think that audiologists are only for elderly people with age related hearing loss, but nothing could be further from the truth. Audiologists have a valuable and varied role in treating the hearing health of people of all ages, from the very young to the very old. They not only perform hearing evaluations and fit hearing aids, but also treat noise induced hearing loss, ear infections, trauma and damage to inner ear and eardrum due to illness or ototoxic medications.
In addition to highlighting the importance of hearing health and bringing attention to audiology, Audiology Awareness Month also brings attention to the potential ramifications of leaving hearing loss untreated. Hearing loss is the third most common health condition faced by older adults after heart disease and diabetes, yet unlike those conditions only 20 percent of those with hearing loss actually seek treatment. In multiple studies, untreated hearing loss has been linked to higher rates of depression, as well as anger, frustration and social isolation. Other studies have shown that those with untreated hearing loss have higher risk of dementia and cognitive decline.
Across the U.S., various chapters of the university based Student Academy of Audiology are doing their part as well, participating in their “Ask Me about Audiology” campaign. On Oct. 24, members of the SAA will be out in full force at local parks, fairs and sporting events, speaking to the public about the importance of hearing protection as well as distributing 3000 pairs of earplugs. In the past, chapters have participated in activities like making videos depicting the role of audiologists and their benefit to hearing health, offering free hearing screenings and distributing flyers. Groups of students have also traveled with licensed audiologists to impoverished areas to give hearing tests and fit hearing aids to people that might not otherwise have access to those services.
Even community-based organizations are getting involved in Audiology Awareness month as an opportunity to educate the public about hearing health and safety. On Oct. 6, for example, under the tagline “It’s a Noisy Planet: Protect their Hearing!” Safe Kids Broward County will be hosting an event for the community that will feature free hearing screenings, free hearing protection and even free amplified telephones for those who qualify.
Social media is, of course, a large part of the campaign’s reach. A simple search on Facebook yields more than 1000 posts mentioning Audiology Awareness Month, making it easy for you to find upcoming hearing health events in your local area. The AAA is also encouraging everyone to go have a hearing exam and then post about it on Twitter using the hashtag #audiologyawarenessmonth to spread the word and encourage others to do the same.
Bottom line? October is a great month to get your hearing checked, or to encourage a loved one to do so. Make an appointment with a hearing care professional in your area, and be part of the conversation once again.