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''Tools for Better Hearing'' Campaign to Promote Awareness for Audiologic Rehabilitation Services Provided by Audiologists

(ROCKVILLE, MD-November 21, 2002) The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) today announced a new initiative promoting the audiologic rehabilitation (AR) services audiologists provide to individuals with hearing loss. In addition to raising consumer awareness of AR services and increasing the number of employers offering AR services for their employees, the "Tools for Better Hearing" campaign will also attempt to secure Medicare coverage of rehabilitation services by qualified audiologists through "The Medicare Audiologic Rehabilitation Act," expected to be introduced early in the 108th Congress by U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA). The announcement was made during ASHA’s annual conference at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

Audiologic rehabilitation services provided by audiologists help individuals who have hearing problems learn how to fully use and manage devices such as cochlear implants and assistive technology to alleviate hearing loss. Rehabilitation services by audiologists also include teaching skills to cope with balance problems, increasing the ability to distinguish sounds, speech or lip reading, and modifying living and work surroundings to maximize communication.

"For individuals with hearing loss, learning or regaining the ability to hear requires more than simply receiving a cochlear implant or hearing aid," said ASHA President Nancy Creaghead, who announced the campaign. "Through audiologic rehabilitation services, audiologists can work with individuals to help them benefit fully from these devices. Lack of an adequate AR plan can result in individuals with hearing aids using the devices ineffectively or, in some cases, discarding the aid altogether." Recent studies have shown that 12-18% of hearing aids are discarded in the first year of use.

Said Rep. Inslee, "Unfortunately, many people give up on their new hearing aids because of problems that could have been solved through simple follow-up appointments. My legislation aims to help audiologists improve the daily lives of their patients, by providing funding for check-ups to ensure that newly acquired hearing aids are correctly tuned and working properly."

Also in attendance for the announcement was Amanda Beers, Miss Washington State 2002, who was born with hearing loss in both ears and whose platform consists of promoting legislation to make hearing aids more available and ensuring early detection of hearing problems in children

One in every ten, or 28 million Americans, and nearly one in three over the age of 65, have a hearing loss. As baby boomers reach retirement age starting in 2010, this number is expected to increase rapidly and nearly double by the year 2030.

ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for more than 108,000 audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems including swallowing disorders.