Broad-Based Ohio Group Battles Hearing Loss

Broad-Based Ohio Group Battles Hearing Loss

October 2003

Editor: Two of the common laments of people with hearing loss are that there is so little awareness of hearing loss and related issues, and that so little assistance is available for people who are hard of hearing, late-deafened, or oral deaf. I agree with those observations, but I’m also seeing all kinds of signs that the situation is changing. Groups which formerly focused exclusively on the culturally Deaf are expanding their focus to include others with hearing loss, and general hearing loss awareness is increasing as more and more people either have hearing loss or affected by the hearing loss of a close friend or family member.

And now a group in Ohio has come together to increase hearing loss awareness and to provide assistance to those affected by hearing loss. Those of you who are looking for something to do might get to work on organizing a similar group in your state. Here are portions of the press release.

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Armed with breakthrough research demonstrating a link between hearing problems and a variety of mental, physical and interpersonal complications including depression, tenseness, irritability, isolation and other traits, health professionals across Ohio have formed a statewide advocacy group to inform the public and their colleagues about the benefits of early prevention and treatment of hearing loss.

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Of special concern are the hearing needs of infants. Early identification of newborns displaying a hearing problem greatly increases the opportunity to work with them and prepare them for the most enjoyable and productive life possible. Sharing information on Ohio’s universal program for newborn hearing screening is a key priority of the new Coalition.

With membership including audiologists, medical doctors, speech-language pathologists, nurses, social service workers and others, The Ohio Coalition for Hearing Health Awareness is launching a comprehensive education campaign to inform the public in general and the medical community in particular about the need to step up routine screening and management of hearing loss. The Coalition currently represents organizations as diverse as The Ohio Department of Health, Ohio Department of Education, Ohio Department of Aging, Ohio Academy of Audiology, Ohio Nurses Association, Ohio Association of School Nurses, Ohio Academy of Pediatrics, Ohio Hearing Aid Society, Ohio Self-Help for Hard of Hearing People, Educational Audiology Network, Ohio School Speech Pathology and Educational Audiology Coalition and others.

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One important impetus for creating The Ohio Coalition for Hearing Health Awareness was publication of a wide-ranging study by the Better Hearing Institute of Alexandria, Virginia.

In the largest study ever conducted on the effects of untreated hearing loss on adults as well as their families, responses from 2,069 individuals who are hard of hearing and 1,710 family members demonstrated a conclusive link between the use of hearing instruments such as hearing aids and improvements in physical, emotional, mental and social well-being. The study confirmed that users of hearing instruments forego extended periods of depression, worry, paranoia and insecurity compared to non-users with hearing loss, and that those who employ hearing devices are more socially active and less isolated than non-users. In addition, the study reveals, family members and friends are more likely to notice these benefits than the individual with hearing loss.

Specific findings include:

– As hearing gets worse, the warmth in relationships cools.

– As hearing loss increases, persons pretend to hear what others say, avoid requests to have others repeat themselves, and engage in activities such as lip reading and talking too much.

– There is a strong relationship between hearing loss and family members’ concerns for the safety of a relative who is hearing-impaired. And, safety concerns increase as hearing loss worsens.

– All survey groups containing hearing instrument users scored significantly better than non-users regarding their degree of tenseness, insecurity, nervousness and other negative traits.

– Similarly, all survey groups containing hearing instrument users reported significantly lower depressive symptoms (weariness, insomnia, thoughts of death) than non-users.

– Non-users were more likely to be viewed as confused, disoriented, arrogant or “living in a world of their own”.

– Hearing instrument users are more likely to participate in organized social events than non-users.

– Among hearing device users and family members, the top three areas of improvement were “relationships at home”, “feelings about self” and “life overall”.

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The Ohio Coalition for Hearing Health Awareness plans to engage in a sustained outreach program aimed at reducing the incidence of hearing loss across Ohio, especially among children and the aging Baby Boomers. In the near term, The Coalition is speaking with news media, publishing articles and circulating an awareness brochure. Longer-term plans could include participation in continuing education programs and symposiums for physicians, mailings to doctors’ offices, childbirth-related information kits, materials on ear infections and other childhood hearing issues, traveling exhibits and more.

For more information on the Coalition, access to research findings or consumer advice, please contact: Anne Moore at The Ohio Department of Health at (614) 644-6572; or e-mail Moore at: amoore@gw.odh.state.oh.us