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Every May, the American Speech and Hearing Association organizes and celebrates Better Speech and Hearing Month to draw awareness to the widespread impacts of disabling hearing loss and the consequences it poses to every one of the almost 50 million Americans that live with it to some degree. This year is the fiftieth such event and its theme is expansive and simple, but profound and immediate: Connecting People.
We depend on our five senses to situate ourselves within our world and assure our immediate safety within our environments. Poison has a bitter taste and warns animals off from eating a particular berry. We often may smell smoke before we feel the heat of flames or recognize its glow. Our vision orients us most overtly within our space. and Touch is the most intimate last line of defense or permission. But it is our hearing that most frequently and deeply connects us to others. It is our speech and hearing that allows us to share our intentions with others and to understand theirs. The nuances and subtleties we can explain to each other enhance and expand our sense of selves and world.
But none of us can know what we don’t know. We come to trust the fidelity of our own biases, but how would we know if any one of our senses is not as sharpened as it could be or as others may assume it to be? The consequences unravel and in doing so draw particular attention to the interdependency between the sense of well-being we each experience on our own and the ease and clarity of our connections with others.
Disabling Hearing Loss Affects Everyone
Disabling hearing loss affects people of all ages. Some people may be born with it and for others it may be the result of damage. The damage may be slowly accrued or from a sudden shocking injury. But one thing is clear: As the population ages more and more people will suffer from it. There should be no shame or embarrassment in admitting that it is affecting you. Studies indicate that it is more common than vision loss, and what social stigma do eyeglasses present? Zero. But like so many specific details of the experience of self-awareness of one’s own body, there are numerous reasons why one may be reticent to admit to recognizing new problems. No one wants to admit to signs of decay. It goes against so many of our deepest instincts to admit that one may have more days behind them than ahead. Doing so pokes at the core of some existential problems for how we ground ourselves in meaning.
But none of that is necessary when we are aware of the basics of hearing loss prevention and normalize simple upkeep. Because people so often resist their subtle interior warning systems it is often most simple to recognize potential health problems through their symptoms. And you are just as likely to recognize these externalized symptoms in yourself as in a loved one. Have you begun to feel that people are often mumbling or speaking too fast? Do you have trouble understanding someone if their head is turned away from you? Maybe those around you are often turning down your TV or radio? To maximize the likelihood for realizing the greatest quality of life for yourself and those you love, you need to be prepared to admit to yourself that there’s a problem or to be willing to have a potentially difficult talk with someone you love.
The potential cost of not doing so is too great of a risk to take. Remember, this really is at its core about Connecting People. Living with hearing loss can mean living without so many of your favorite things that give life depth and pleasure: a melody from long ago that you didn’t know that you remember or the texture of an old friend’s laugh. Just imagine for a second the difference between trusting deeply that you understand and feel understood by those closest to you. Think of how much depends on feeling that you understand and are understood by strangers in passive even? Living with hearing loss means risking feeling isolated, which quickly unspools into feelings of depression and isolation.
Take Action Today
But there is no reason for that. Accept ASHA’s invitation and make an appointment with us today. There’s no reason to put off guaranteeing that you are experiencing life to its fullest.