StromToughy Tooth and Hearing Health care Education
W hen I was a young boy, about a million and a half years ago, our rural Minnesota elementary classroom was visited by a guest speaker promoting dental hygiene and tooth care. Looking back at the presentation, I cannot remember if this visiting speaker was a local dentist, someone from the American Dental Association, a local county nurse, or perhaps a toothpaste distributor. However, what I find rather extraordinary is the fact that I can even remember the visit after more than 30 years. Two salient events occurred during the presentation. The most memorable was when everyone in the class got to chew blood-red tablets after brushing their teeth, exposing all the places you’d missed after dutifully and conscientiously brushing the heck out of what few teeth you had at the time. It was like Night of the Living Dead had suddenly been recast by the entire second grade of North Shore Elementary. The second memorable thing was a guy named Toughy Tooth, a gigantic back-molar who extolled the virtues of brushing, flossing, and fluoride (which, at the time, I thought was a warm, southern state). I don’t recall if Toughy Tooth was in the form of a video, slide-show, etc, but what I do recall is that he really appreciated being brushed after each meal.

Unfortunately for me, my fears of my childhood dentist probably outweighed all the educational material the American Dental Association could have mustered: my dentist could have played a stand-in for Sir Laurence Olivier’s torture artist in Marathon Man (ie, “Is it safe?”) and apparently had never heard of either novocaine or a drill that spun faster than my Close-and-Play record player. But the point is this: education about health care at an early age works—and works well.

Likewise, a study by Chermak, Curtis & Seikel in 1996 showed that hearing education increased one’s active participation in hearing health. In this month’s Hearing Review, Shannon White, MS, who has educated more than 12,000 schoolchildren using a program called Noise Destroys, details how you can make contact with local schools in order to provide a hearing conservation education program for kids. White says there is no reason to recreate the wheel; there are plentiful sources online and available through organizations that can help you craft an educational program. Essentially, once you establish the presentation and get it scheduled, it involves taking a half-day out each year to spend 20-30 minutes educating kids about the ear, hearing, and hearing health care. Dressing up like a giant ear is optional.

It would be nice if there were funds to hire a cadre of educators who could travel throughout each state and hit every elementary school once a year, telling kids about hearing conservation and educating them about their hearing. The reality is no organization in the hearing care field has these funds. Thus, at present, it falls on local practitioners (and, possibly, the already overworked educational audiologists) to gain access to gradeschool classrooms and educate kids about hearing health care and hearing conservation. This is a golden opportunity to provide a message to kids and their parents that hearing is valuable, needs to be taken care of, and there are valuable professional services associated with hearing health care. It may also do more to conserve the hearing of those in your community than anything else you could do.

Karl Strom