May is Better Hearing & Speech Month, an annual occasion designed to raise awareness of hearing loss and speech problems. Originally created in 1927 by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), in 1986 President Reagan issued a formal proclamation designating May as the official month to heighten public awareness about hearing loss and speech disorders. The goal of Better Hearing & Speech Month is to encourage people to take action if they believe there might be a problem with their hearing or speech.
Many in the hearing care industry take advantage of the opportunity to educate people during the month of May, offering free or discounted hearing screenings and special pricing on hearing aids and assistive listening devices. They’ve got a large potential audience: an estimated 48 million Americans suffer from hearing loss, a number that continues to grow as the condition is increasingly affecting a younger demographic.
It is also the perfect time to educate people on the prevalence of hearing loss. One out of three adults 65 and older experiences some degree of hearing loss; by the age of 75 that number jumps to one out of two. But as previously stated, hearing loss isn’t just a condition that affects older people. Children and young adults are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss, especially as the popularity of iPods and personal music devices increases; persistent exposure to excessively loud music is on the rise thanks to earbuds and headphones and the tendency to crank up the volume. Other factors that contribute to hearing loss include ear infections, impacted earwax and ototoxic medications.
Hearing exams are the best way to detect hearing loss early, when there are more treatment options available. They enable an audiologist to identify problems before they worsen and recommend treatment to those who might otherwise suffer debilitating social and emotional effects of hearing loss including depression, isolation, memory loss and cognitive impairment. Hearing exams aren’t just important for older adults. Hearing is the cornerstone of a child’s language and social skills; impairment can result in developmental delays. Early detection can ensure a child develops at a normal rate alongside his or her peers. Parents can’t always tell when a child is having trouble hearing, and newborn hearing screenings aren’t 100 percent effective in detecting a hearing problem. Besides, the hearing loss might develop after birth.
If you are noticing problems with your hearing or suspect a loved one may be suffering from hearing loss, heed the message of Better Hearing & Speech Month and contact an audiologist or other hearing care specialist for a hearing exam.