Better Speech and Hearing Month is observed in May each year to increase awareness about communication disorders and hearing health. While records about speech and language impairments have appeared in writings for centuries, history was not kind to those presenting with such problems. During the period of the Roman Empire, for instance, people with language impairments like stuttering were placed in cages for entertainment purposes. Passing citizens would throw coins into the cage to get these people to talk.
It was only much later that speech-language pathology became a respected profession and people were able to start seeking treatment for such disorders without facing stigma. In 1927, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Associations (ASHA) – which is America’s leading organization for speech-language pathologist, audiologists, and speech/language/hearing scientists – founded the Better Speech and Hearing Month to promote understanding about speech and hearing disorders, to prevent hearing loss, and encourage people to seek treatment for hearing, communication disorders and speech-related issues.
Did you know that most audiologists have their undergraduate degree in communication disorders? When I started my college education in 1979, audiology was a master’s level profession. Attending the University of Iowa, I took classes with students that would later become speech pathologists as well as audiologists. Not only did I take classes in hearing science, anatomy and physics of sound, but also studied stuttering, phonetics, articulation disorder, etc. It was not until I went to the University of Denver that I focused my studies in hearing and received my master’s degree in audiology.
Currently audiology is a doctorate level profession. When my boys were old enough to do their own homework, I went back to school. I attended A. T. Still University which is a division of Arizona School of Health Sciences. Thank goodness for online classes and after two years of study, I am proud to be called “Dr. Oden”.
So, for Better Speech and Hearing Month, the World Health Origination (WHO) recommends hearing screenings as part of routine health checks or combined with other health interventions (e.g., general physical check-up, eye screening, dental care, etc.)
All adults from the age of 50 years should be screened regularly for hearing loss. Screening may be conducted at five-year intervals until the age of 64 years, from 65 years of age, the frequency of screening should be increased to every one to three years.
Two States of Screening Recommended by the WHO (2021)
Step 1: All those undergoing screening should be asked about the status of their hearing and experience of hearing difficulties in day-to-day like using simple questions or a validated questionnaire.
Step 2: A hearing screening test for those whose positive responses to the questions in Step 1 are indicative of a hearing problem. The WHO (2021) recommended a variety of hearing screening approaches ranging from a pure-tone screen to determination of air conduction thresholds.
“For all of those who fail their hearing screening and undergo a diagnostic test, the WHO (2021) guidelines recommend that all peoples (and a caregiver/family member) receive a basic education and counseling about hearing loss, including communication strategies training and adaptations in social and physical environments. The discussion of interventions might also include a discussion of the range of technology available, including hearing aids, cochlear implants, and assistive technologies.
*All those who pass the screen should receive information consistent with hearing health promotion, such as information on hearing protection and information underscoring the importance of communication for maintaining participation in activities of daily living (e.g., promote hearing wellness).
If you would like more information about Better Speech and Hearing Month visit our website at www.hearingsolutionsofnc.com or give us a call at 704-633-0023. Jane, Cheryl, Jamie, Diane, and I look forward to seeing you soon.