Public Awareness in Other Disciplines
The AAA Foundation is committed to helping educate the public and related disciplines about the importance of hearing and balance wellness as well as to address common misconceptions about audiology. In this effort, the Foundation supported the U13 Bedside-to-Bench Conference Series, Sensory Impairment and Cognitive Decline sponsored by the National Institute on Aging and the American Geriatrics Society.
The Foundation’s participation as an underwriter was to determine how the Academy and the AAAF will support work in sensory impairment and cognitive decline in terms of research, education, and public awareness. Therese Walden, AuD, former Foundation Chair, attended the conference on behalf of the AAA Foundation and the American Academy of Audiology on October 2-3, 2017 and presented some of her observations:
The purpose of the conference was to determine how “converging epidemiologic evidence links sensory impairment (vision/hearing) to risk of cognitive decline and incident dementia.” The conference presenters and participants reviewed how the “functional challenges imposed by sensory impairment are more difficult to overcome when accompanied by even mild cognitive impairments, and vice versa.”
Although some of the discussion was good and moderately informed, there was a great deal of misrepresentation and misinformation about hearing and balance issues. Audiology took many hard hits at the meeting. A community health nurse stood up to say that she has been involved in a hearing screening programs where individuals are referred for diagnostic testing/treatment and she is told by the audiologist that “there is nothing that can be done with someone who has a mild loss”. There is always something that can be done, always. Audiologists, as a group, are uninformed and unaware of what groups like the Geriatrics Society and the NIA are doing to get in front of symptoms and disease processes to mitigate long-term deleterious effects of non-diagnosis and non-treatment.
The Foundation and the Academy need to focus on public awareness of and education on the risks of untreated hearing loss and balance deficits and the benefit of early detection and treatment for better long-term outcomes. Audiologists need to be educated, especially clinical audiologists and students about the contemporary models of healthcare delivery. We cannot wait for patients to be referred to us by MDs, we must be in the community working with those who see individuals with hearing and balance problems every day: Community health workers, in-home care specialists, assisted care providers, skilled nursing providers, etc., these individuals see thousands and thousands of patients every day and they are our best referral source to address hearing and balance deficits.