This week I share a school project written by my son. The assignment was to write about a cause that is important to you and then deliver a speech about it to the class. He is in 7th grade. While not every detail is perfect in his talk, his experience growing up with a mom who has hearing loss shines through in bright detail. I am so proud of his efforts to raise awareness about hearing loss and love his suggestions for how his peers can help.
I share his speech below, lightly edited.
Hello. I am here to talk about the hearing loss issues in this country. Many of you may not think that this is a big deal, but according to Hearing Loss Association of America, 48 million people have some amount of hearing loss in the United States. This topic is very important to me because my mom has hearing loss and it is a struggle for our whole family to always speak loud enough and look at her when we are speaking. It is also a huge struggle for her to have to bear with sometimes not being able to hear us when we are speaking.
The devices that help people with hearing loss are called hearing aids. Hearing aids take the sound from the outside world and amplify it inside people’s ears. You may think that this solves the problem, but there is much more to it. They don’t always work the way you expect. Having hearing aids can also restrict you in many ways. One way is you can’t swim with them so when you snorkel it is hard to hear.
Another problem with hearing aids is that they are super expensive. They sell some cheaper hearing aid type devices at stores, but they are usually not as good as the ones from a hearing doctor. This means that poorer people don’t have the access to the tools they need to hear well.
You would think that most insurance would cover hearing aids because they cover glasses and doctors appointments, but barely any do. I saw a flyer on the street once for a company that covered hearing aids and I immediately sent a picture to my mom about this saying OMG LOOK WHAT I FOUND because this is so rare! Insurance says that glasses are more important than hearing aids but they both help one of our senses.
It is hard for people with hearing loss to function as well in the world as others because most places don’t try to help the hearing impaired. For example, at some movie theaters they have a device that shows captions for the movie. These are nice, but sometimes they don’t work. Also, at many places when they show videos they don’t add captions and on places like YouTube, the captions aren’t correct a lot of the time.
How do people get hearing loss and what happens inside your ear?
If you listen to a loud enough noise for a certain amount of time the hair cells in your ears that send the electric signals to your brain die, and from there, there is no coming back…yet. Scientists are trying to figure out a way for humans to be able to regrow inner ear cells. The only animal that can do this is surprisingly a chicken. I mean, out of all animals, a chicken. The scientists are trying to find out how the chickens do it so maybe they can replicate that for the human body. I raise money with my mom through hearing walks that go to supporting this cause. Editor’s note: Most birds and fish can regenerate their hair cells. Mammals cannot.
What we can we do for the moment?
— You can educate others about what you heard and spread the news that noise is damaging.
— You can wear noise-cancelling headsets when you go on an airplane. Even though it does not seem loud, it is still very loud.
— Also parties, yes, they are fun but they are very damaging to your hearing because of all of the super loud music that they play there. What I do when I go to them is I wear earplugs that block out most of the noise so I don’t damage my ears.
— Additionally we can try to get the movie theaters to have and develop a captioning system that works better. For example now at some Broadway shows, they have caption boards on the side of the stage for the people with hearing loss. My mom loves these because it gives her the chance to understand what everybody else understands and hears about the show.
I hope now you understand why this issue should not be forgotten. Thank you.
Readers, do you spread awareness about hearing loss among your peers?