Yes, it's that time of the year again to remind you that May is Better Speech and Hearing Month according to the American Speech Language and Hearing Association (ASHA). Dr. Carol Flexer, Professor of Audiology at the University of Akron, states that "Hearing is the velcro to which skills such as attention, spoken language, reading, and academic competencies are attached." Loss of hearing is prevalent in our society due to the combined effects of noise, aging, disease, and heredity (ASHA). The American Speech Language and Hearing Association goes on to say that hearing is complex, since this sense involves both the sensitivity of the ear to sound as well as the ability to understand speech.
Hearing loss affects approximately 17 in 1,000 children under the age of 18. Otitis media is a frequent diagnosed cause of a hearing loss in infants and young children. The inflammation in the middle ear located behind the ear drum called the tympanum results in a buildup of fluid. According to ASHA most children experience at least one episode of otitis media by their third birthday. An acquired hearing loss which appears after birth may be the result of an illness such as meningitis, measles, chicken pox, influenza, and mumps.
Symptoms of a hearing loss in children may include delayed speech and language development, a child that often says "huh", the child who does not follow directions or respond when called, and/or a child that has the sound turned up on the TV.
Dr. Flexer contends that even a minimal hearing impairment can seriously affect the overall development of an infant or child who is in the process of learning language, developing spoken communication skills, and acquiring academic knowledge in the classroom. Your school nurse is a good first source of information to contact if your child exhibits symptoms of a hearing loss. Schuylkill IU#29 also has a hearing program and an audiologist who could assist a parent that suspects a child with a hearing loss.
Adults cannot fly under my radar screen as May, Better Speech and Hearing Month, is for you also. Some 10 million Americans are affected by an irreversible noise induced hearing loss (ASHA). A hearing loss in adults can be caused by disease or infection, tumors, trauma, and the aging process. A loss of hearing as a result of the aging process is called prsbycusis and involves the degeneration of the inner ear or cochlea. This type of hearing loss is progressive and usually begins somewhere between the ages of 55-65. Such a loss in the higher frequencies could affect sounds like f, th, and s and make speech more difficult to understand. Symptoms to look for in the adult population include asking people to repeat themselves, others say you play the TV or car radio too loudly, you complain that people mumble or you only hear part of the conversation, you have trouble hearing the doorbell or telephone, and you seem to hear better with your glasses on because of the speech-reading clues you receive looking at the person's lips and facial expressions.
A hearing evaluation can be performed by a certified audiologist (ASHA, CCC-Audiology) and a medical diagnosis done by an ENT Specialist or an Otolaryngologist. Should a hearing aid be appropriate for your hearing loss, the audiologist will conduct a hearing aid evaluation (HAE) to determine the kind of hearing aid and model best suited for your particular loss. Unfortunately only 1 out of 5 people who could benefit from a hearing aid actually wears one (NIDCD). Dr. Flexer states that a hearing loss is a continuum from minimal to profound and not just two categories of normal and deaf. She goes on to say that 94-95% of persons with a hearing impairment are hard of hearing and not deaf. So this month of May might be a good time to direct anyone with a suspected hearing problem to take appropriate action with an above mentioned professional. And it might also be nice to thank God for our wonderful sense of hearing.
This article is dedicated in memory of Ms. Denise Collins, Technology Specialist, Schuylkill IU #29 who had a significant impact on the deaf and hard of hearing students I serviced as a teacher in the Hearing Program
William J. Gaydos
Retired Teacher of Deaf/Hearing Impaired
Schuylkill IU #29