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Better Speech and Hearing Month

by Hugo Amador

In 1927 the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) designated the month of May as Better Hearing and Speech Month. Every May, this recognition highlights the opportunity for patients to gain awareness about hearing and speech issues. More importantly, it helps individuals become mindful about their own hearing and stay cognizant of hearing loss and other auditory illnesses. 

With many individuals living with unidentified hearing loss, early identification and intervention for hearing loss has become growingly important. Typically, hearing loss is and can be identified within the first few days of life. However, when undiagnosed, individuals can go months if not years without being aware of their deteriorating hearing. 

Dr. M. Charles Liberman, Professor of Otology at Harvard Medical School and director of a hearing research lab claims hearing loss is an issue that does not get the attention it deserves. “The extent to which hearing-related issues get so little attention is amazing and troublesome,” says Dr. Liberman. 

Ears can be deceiving. Even if they appear to have recovered from muffling, ringing, or loud noises, they never truly recover. Nerve fibers between the ears and the brain degrade over time, along with tiny sensory cells in the cochlea that are damaged by noise. 

Partial deafness usually begins with trouble hearing in background noise and additional auditory abnormalities such as tinnitus (ringing in the ear), hyperacusis (sound sensitivity), or ear pain. “Many are damaging their ears with noise exposure such that their hearing abilities will diminish as they age,” Dr. Liberman explains. 

The Challenge of Reaching All Patients

Most Americans have the privilege of visiting audio and speech specialists around the country. But others, such as most illegal immigrants in the United States, do not have access to these advantages. Due to a lack of equitable healthcare and growing fear of medical treatment, most hearing impaired immigrants are left open handed in opportunity. Most are forced into the underground economy, because current law prohibits their employment, disabled or not. Thus exacerbating the difficulty of securing financial stability. 

Better Hearing and Speech month is a month to acknowledge and celebrate the privilege to hear; to connect with one another through sound, words, and laughter. However, most have forgotten to acknowledge the gift of hearing. May is the month to ensure that you, and your loved ones, are aware of the importance of healthy hearing. 

Hugo Amador is an undergraduate student at Cornell University. He is currently studying cellular & molecular biology, journalism, and Latin American studies. After being born and raised in Honduras, Hugo moved to the United States in flee against gang violence where he has worked with many organizations in research/advocacy – primarily towards immigrant and refugee populations. He has given many TEDx talks, having his talks published with global organizations, and has also worked on clinical research within immigrant populations in the New York metropolitan area along with an infectious disease team. Hugo is the recipient of prestigious and competitive academic fellowships, such as the Cornell Commitment Fellowship, and is the founder of Hugo’s Movement, a not-for-profit that advocates for the access to equitable healthcare, education, and liberty of victims of war and gang violence, primarily immigrant children and adolescents. Hugo can be reached at haa45@cornell.edu.

May 2022  page 9