Special Olympics Healthy Hearing Q&A
The Healthy Hearing program was founded by Dr. Gilbert R. Herer in 1999 and provides global audiologic screening, care, advice, and referrals for every Special Olympics Athlete. Special Olympics summer and winter games are competed at both the national and international levels, and this past July (2015), the Special Olympic Summer World Games were held in Los Angeles, California. At these games, there were many good hearted volunteers lending their services to the Special Olympics Healthy Hearing (SOHH) program including, audiologists, speech-language pathologists, AuD and SLP students, and Ear, Nose, and Throat physicians. Volunteer SLP graduate students from Chapman University and audiology doctoral students from San Diego State University/ UC San Diego contributed significantly to screening athletes from many different countries. Hearing services were provided to athletes of all ages, and included cerumen management, otoscopy, tympanometry, hearing screenings, threshold testing, and hearing aid fittings.
Keri Cole, AuD, the Clinical Director of the most recent Summer World Games, reported that 2,612 athletes were screened (that’s 5,224 ears!) and 197 athletes were fitted with hearing aids. Dr. Cole noted that many of the athletes who were fit with hearing aids at the World Games had never experienced hearing technology or hearing healthcare. She particularly recalled that the majority of athletes on the Nigerian basketball team had hearing loss in the severe to profound range. Once fit with hearing aids, these players were able to enjoy and perceive the sounds associated with the game of basketball for the first time!
At the SOHH Q&A event held at AudiologyNOW! 2016 in Phoenix, AZ, the national SAA was able to follow up with audiology doctoral students from the consortium program at San Diego State University / UC San Diego who volunteered at the SOHH World Games in Los Angeles. The students, including Lauren Rynders, Brennan Hefner, and Heather Stenger, all spoke highly of their volunteer experience at the World Games. The students reported the most challenging, yet most heartwarming, part of the World Games was the volunteer’s ability to connect and support the athletes despite language barriers. In doing so, they were able to build trusting relationships with the athletes as they provided them with services.
Michelle Hicks, PhD, and Dennis Van Vliet, AuD, representatives from Starkey Hearing Technologies, whom sponsored the Q&A, were also present and provided information to students who were interested in volunteering at SOHH events in the future. Students and professionals who attended the Q&A event learned that athletes who received initial care and hearing aids from Starkey at the World Games were also going to be provided with follow-up care through the Starkey Foundation. It was truly heartwarming hearing the students and Starkey representatives speak about their experiences.
If you are interested in volunteering with SOHH and or want to know more about upcoming SOHH events, please visit the SOHH Web page of the national SAA website.
Nicole Jordan recently graduated with her AuD from the University of Texas at Dallas and will be completing her second term as a Member At Large on the SAA Board of Directors this June. Nicole is currently the Chair of the SAA Humanitarian Committee and can be contacted with questions about the SOHH program.