Once dismissed as a malady of the elderly, hearing loss is now recognized as a condition that affects more than 28 million Americans of all ages. As organizations like the American Academy of Audiology increase public awareness through tireless educational efforts, the media has, perhaps, become the most high-profile tool in imparting hearing health care savvy. As media figures experience hearing problems, the public tends to take notice, and, as a result, have a better understanding of hearing health and the technologies available to maintain it.
For example, when former President Bill Clinton was fitted for double hearing aids while in office, hearing tests and sales of hearing devices among Baby Boomers increased. Similarly, when conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh and former Miss America, Heather Whitestone McCallum, received cochlear implants last year, their testimonials of improved hearing and quality of life encouraged many individuals, who might never have been aware of this option, to research the technology and see if it might be a suitable solution to their own hearing problems. Also, noted film and television actresses Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God and The West Wing) and Deanne Bray (Sue Thomas, F.B.Eye) continue to be an inspiration for deaf and hearing-impaired individuals, encouraging them to pursue their dreams, despite physical challenges.
Even fictitious media characters have increased hearing health care awareness. For example, as TVs CSI character, crime investigator Gil Grissom (portrayed by actor William Petersen), faces his encroaching hearing loss, he struggles to adapt his career and lifestyle to his world of increasing silence, not to mention maintain a reasonable level of communication with his colleagues and clients. Surely, Grissoms experience will illicit a continued flurry of attention among viewers and critics of this high-profile TV series, and once again, the media will serve as a tool to further understanding hearing health.
In closing, Hearing Products Report invites you to visit us at the upcoming Academy of Dispensing Audiologists 27th Annual Convention (booth #22) and the International Hearing Societys 52nd Annual Convention and Exposition (booth #326). See you there.
Rogena Schuyler Silverman