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Hearing Loss, Hearing Aids, & the U.S. Presidency

Hearing: one of the most important skills we need to be able to engage in conversation, to understand, to express ourselves and to ensure that our message is being communicated and understood. A hearing loss will interrupt that cycle, making it difficult to thrive in our relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. The presence of a hearing loss can make it difficult to work and to complete business, to enjoy our most loved activities, and to participate in our relationships with those who matter in our lives. The irony is, though having a hearing loss is a signifiant handicap, fewer than 30% of individuals who have hearing loss pursue treatment and wear hearing aids. Many people do not want to wear hearing aids, and their reasons range from not being able to truly identify that there is a hearing loss to the perceived social stigma often associated with the devices.

We should be able to look to our leaders for guidance in many ways. On this week commemorating the 45 people who were elected to lead our great nation, we can look towards many of those who led the United States of America successfully despite having a hearing loss. These fearless and strong leaders identified how important it was to treat the hearing loss – and got fitted with hearing aids so that there was no issue with hearing, understanding, and communicating. The treatment of their hearing loss helped them to continue on and thrive as leaders.

Other U.S Presidents became known hearing healthcare advocates, acknowledging the importance of hearing and communication function in our everyday lives. We salute all the U.S. Presidents this week, but we pay special homage to those who have helped to improve hearing healthcare awareness – through either public policy and changes, or through their own personal hearing healthcare treatment process.

Interesting Hearing Healthcare Presidential Facts:

  • Ronald Reagan: The first President to wear hearing aids while in office, Reagan was fit in 1983. Technological advancements that made hearing aids more powerful and smaller motivated Reagan to seek help for his longstanding hearing loss.  The fact that a powerful world leader acknowledged his hearing loss publicly and sought treatment through the use of hearing aids was a significant motivator for others to follow suit.
  • Bill Clinton was first fitted for hearing aids in 1997 during his second term. He attributed his hours of band practice and exposure to loud music as a part of the reason for his hearing loss. Bill Clinton’s use of hearing aids was a signifier of the maturing baby boomer generation and helped to renew public awareness.
  • Other U.S. Presidents who have known to have worn hearing airs were: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush. They were all fitted for hearing aids post-presidency, allowing them to live confidently and continue to have an impact on US policies.
  • Abraham Lincoln signed a bill into law turning Gallaudet University into a collegiate institution in 1864. To this day, all diplomas from Gallaudet University are signed by the sitting U.S. President.
  • Thomas Jefferson documented his hearing difficulties, showing how they affected his everyday activities. In 1819 he wrote in a letter to a physician stating, “My hearing is distinct in particular conversation, but confused when several voices cross each other, which unfits me for the society of the table.” Many can relate to challenges hearing in noisy situations.
  • Theodore Roosevelt lost the hearing in his left ear due to a procedure to remove an abscess from the area.
  • George Washington likely suffered a hearing loss due to high levels of noise exposure from gunfire while hunting and during wartime.
  • Each U.S. president from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon B. Johnson met with Helen Keller, who was deaf and blind, due to her political views and her work with many advocacy groups, as well as political organizations.
  • The Clinton Foundation has been a major advocate in partnering with the Starkey Hearing Foundation to fit people all over the world with hearing technology. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have been on many missions around the world, fitting the underprivileged with hearing technology

When it comes time to decide if treating a hearing loss with hearing aids is right for you, remember that our most esteemed leaders were often in the same position. They have set the stage for us all to accept a hearing loss, pursue treatment, and therefore be able to continue our journey on reaching our greatest heights.

Written by New York Speech and Hearing

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