I am a huge Harry Potter fan so when someone recently asked me “What would you do if you were the Minister of Hearing Health,” my head immediately filled with images of wands and other wizardly gear. Could I simply flick my wand and make hearing loss disappear I wondered?
OK. Back to reality.
If I were the Minister of Hearing Health, in charge of all things Hearing Health, what would I do to ease the burden for people with hearing loss? What would my hearing health priorities be?
See my list below and please add your ideas in the comments. Perhaps we can share the final list with the real ministers of hearing health—the governmental and other agencies overseeing support for people with hearing loss around the world.
My Hearing Health Priorities
Hearing loss makes communication difficult, and communication is the glue that binds us to the people and activities that we love. Healthy hearing helps us stay connected to the things that matter to us. When people at all stages of the hearing journey—even those with typical hearing—accept this link, we will see real change. Here’s what I would hope to achieve.
1. Link Healthy Hearing to Overall Health
Hearing loss is associated with many health problems including depression, a higher risk of falls, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Hearing loss is also one of the largest modifiable risk factors for developing dementia. Making this information more widely know is key.
2. Beef-up Accessibility Measures
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 430 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss. This number jumps to 700 million people by 2050, impacting 10% of the population. Beefing up accessibility measures like captioning and assistive listening technologies in public spaces, entertainment venues and online, will help keep this growing population engaged.
3. Incorporate Hearing into Routine Medical Care
Why don’t doctors regularly screen for hearing loss? Perhaps they don’t understand the linkages to overall health, or perhaps they are not reimbursed for doing so. Insurance plans and medical school trainings must be modified to put hearing care center stage. We must also learn to understand our role in receiving proper hearing care.
4. Make Hearing Devices of All Types Affordable
Hearing aids are expensive. So are cochlear implants, but at least in the United States, implants are usually covered by insurance. New OTC hearing aids for people with mild to moderate hearing loss will help improve access, but overall affordability is lacking. We must expand national health and private insurance plans so they include not only hearing tests, but devices and aural rehabilitation services too.
5. Promote Hearing Loss Prevention
Scientists cannot yet repair damaged hearing, so we must protect it. Health curriculums for students of all ages must teach how and why to protect hearing. Making using hearing protection cool would save millions from the challenges of hearing loss. As would beefed up enforcement of noise protection laws.
6. Support Research into Treatments and Cures
The more scientists learn about how hearing works (and doesn’t work), the more success they will have in developing new cures and better ways to prevent hearing loss. Governments must allocate more funds to support this work.
For more Minister of Hearing Health conversation, listen to this Habits & Health podcast episode where both Gael Hannan and I share our lists. A transcript of the podcast is available at the very bottom of the linked page.
Readers, what would you add to my minster of hearing health priorities?
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16 thoughts on “If I Were the Minister of Hearing Health”
My priority would be more research done to heal hearing loss. As people who do not suffer from it think that if one has a hearing aid or an implant they can then hear, so more research isn’t as important, I doubt if anything will be done very quickly.
Great one! Thanks for adding to the discussion.
Add this to Beef Up Accessibility Measures (or make a new number):
Make people aware that if an event is labeled as “Fully Accessible”, this includes hearing accessibility. That means if they are not providing captioning, to include song lyrics (online or in print). Make it easier for someone to request an event to be hearing accessible. Educate those that fully accessible includes those who are deaf or have hearing loss.
Good ones! Thank you for your ideas.
Thanks for your comment!
My priority would be to change state laws to require audiologists and hearing instrument specialists to use real ear measurements. Plus, require them to inform all clients about assistive listening devices, loops and tele-coils, the possibility of cochlear implants for those whose testing might indicate eligibility. It would also be nice to tell clients about what society can do to improve accessibility for people with hearing loss.
Good ideas. Thank you for sharing them.
Encourage equitable employment opportunities, accommodations, and access for the hearing impaired. And always make captioning available on online platforms, whether anyone requests it or not. Access should be in the user’s hands, not the host’s.
Absolutely! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
I’d make ASL classes available in all early education programs. Highschool is developmentally late to be learning any language but I’d settle for it being in the standard HS language curriculum alongside French and Spanish.
Thank you for sharing your suggestions.
First: I would MANDATE “sensitvity training” with respect to the needs of hearing impaired persons for ALL customer service reps who regularly deal with the public on the phone. Not all hearing impaired callers have access to closed caption phones — particularly those of us who work in offices —- and CSRs need to know how to respond with sensitivity to hearing impaired callers.
Second: I would MANDATE that any room office etc. where conversations are likely to be confidential — such as doctors’ examining rooms, IRS auditors’ offices, etc. (just to name two that I have personally encountered) — be SOUNDPROOFED so that persons talking can talk more loudly if necessary to accommodate the needs of hearing impaired patients or clients.
Good suggestions. Thanks for sharing them!