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FREE SPEECH ZONE | May is Better Hearing and Speech Month
“One in Five Americans Has Hearing Loss.” With this headline Johns Hopkins researchers gained the media’s attention in November 2011. They found that 1 in 5 Americans over the age of 12 has a degree of hearing loss sufficient to hamper communication. This amounts to 48 million people. The study results which were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (14 November 2011) showed that the number of those with hearing challenges was quite a bit higher than what had been previously thought. It is worrisome that the numbers of young people with hearing loss are on the rise as even a small hearing decline can have a significant impact on learning abilities and on the development of speech and language skills.
Since 1927, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has dedicated the month of May to raise public awareness about communication disorders related to hearing and speech/language issues. ASHA encourages us to have any evidence of problems pertaining to these areas checked out and treated if needed.
During the month of May, Courage Center offers speech and language screenings for children aged 2 to 6 at its four locations: Golden Valley, Burnsville, Stillwater, and Forest Lake. These assessments are free of charge to the families, but appointments will be needed. Call Sharon, Care Navigator, for details at 763-520-0494. The Minnesota Speech-Language-Hearing Association (MSHA) will post other events on its website www.msha.net as information becomes available.
So, how is our hearing doing? Hearing tests are indicated if we respond “yes” to tell-tale questions such as: Do we feel that people mumble? Do we have trouble hearing in noisy settings? Do we feel excluded from conversations because we cannot understand? Do we frequently ask people to repeat themselves? Do we often misunderstand what is being said? Do people mention that our hearing is not-so-good?
If hearing tests show indeed a loss, it is important for us to know our patient rights for our own protection. As hearing loss may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires those who administer hearing evaluations, such as hearing aid vendors, to inform clients about the need for a medical examination before purchasing a hearing instrument. A publication by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “Sound Advice on Hearing Aids,” is a good summary of the essentials that we should be aware of as we set out in search of hearing help. It can be found at www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/health/hea10.shtm and is well worth reading. I wish I had known about this before I got my first hearing aid.
It also pays for people with hearing loss to become familiar with some of the local organizations that can lend support and maybe assistance. Until I came down with my own ear/hearing and balance issues I did not know about any of the Minnesota resources listed below.
- The Commission of Deaf, Deafblind and Hard-of-Hearing Minnesotans (MCDHH) advocates for equal opportunities for people with hearing loss and hearing/vision loss. I have served two three-year terms as governor-appointed commissioner with this busy and dynamic group. Those who are interested in the potential effects of legislative actions on those with hearing and hearing/vision loss will find a visit to www.mncdhh.org most interesting.
- The Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division (DHHSD) offers an extensive menu of information for people with hearing and hearing/vision challenges at
- The HLAA TC (Twin Cities chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America) holds support and informational meetings every third Saturday of the month, September through May, 9:30 am to 12noon, at the Courage Center in Golden Valley. This group supported me in very traumatic times. I have served as vice-president and president and will be forever indebted to those who gave me hope when I was a bit of a mess.
- The Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens (MADC) represents and furthers the interests and rights of deaf Minnesotans www.minndeaf.org.
Monique Hammond is a registered pharmacist. Hearing loss, tinnitus, and noise sensitivities are part of her life. She is the author of the book: “What Did You Say?” An Unexpected Journey into the World of Hearing Loss. She can be reached at whatdidyousaybook [at] yahoo [dot] com
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