If I Were the Minister of Hearing Health

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.

If I were the minister of hearing health…

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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Book: Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss

14 thoughts on “If I Were the Minister of Hearing Health

  1. 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.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Great one! Thanks for adding to the discussion.

  2. 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.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Good ones! Thank you for your ideas.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thanks for your comment!

  3. 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.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Good ideas. Thank you for sharing them.

  4. 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.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Absolutely! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. 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.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thank you for sharing your suggestions.

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