When posed with the question, “Why become an audiologist?” many of us have the same answer. It was not because the idea of working with hearing aids seemed thrilling or that we were yearning to fill out an audiogram on a daily basis. For most of us, it was because we have a strong innate desire to help people.
This ideology goes hand in hand with the premise of humanitarian audiology efforts. The idea of humanitarian audiology or how to become involved may seem confusing or abstract, especially to students or early professionals. However, there are many resources and opportunities within your grasp that can be utilized to better serve your profession and community.
What Is Humanitarian Audiology?
Humanitarian audiology is using our audiology skills to serve our community and help bring hearing health care to those who may not receive it otherwise. In application, this can vary widely. Though the name can apply to traveling to faraway countries where access to hearing health care is limited, it can just as easily be used to describe serving within your own backyard. These efforts may include partnering with a number of organizations already in place to help facilitate humanitarian audiology, as well as becoming involved in initiatives within your local community.
What Organizations Are Already in Place?
Special Olympics Healthy Hearing (SOHH).
This organization hosts hearing screenings for athletes that are a part of Special Olympics. Special Olympics is an organization that serves athletes with intellectual disabilities all over the world. In addition to hearing screenings, they provide other free health screenings and informzation at all of their events. These events also teach athletes about their hearing and make needed referrals to better serve each athlete. SAA is partnered with SOHH, and SAA chapters can reach out and volunteer their time before and during local events. Volunteering time with SOHH is a great way to ensure that these athletes receive proper hearing health care. You can reach out to your Healthy Hearing Clinical Director in your state, or you can visit http://resources.specialolympics.org/Taxonomy/Health/_Catalog_of_Healthy....
Starkey Hearing Foundation.
The Starkey Hearing Foundation is another great way to reach out to those in places where hearing health care is scarce or nonexistent, and provide access to hearing health care for those who would never have received it otherwise. They currently have ongoing missions abroad. If you have a desire to help people who don't have access to audiology services, visit www.starkeyhearingfoundation.org/ to learn about upcoming opportunities.
What Opportunities Are Within My Local Community?
Conduct Community Health Screenings.
Hosting free hearing screenings is a great way to get the word out about your clinic and help people in the community. Find an appropriate location, such as a community center, worship place, or library. You can advertise your event through local news and social media. Combined with other free dental and medical clinics, turnout can be increased to reach as many as possible.
Reaching out to your local Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) chapter or contacting local nursing homes can also be a great way to get connected to the community. It is important to show your community that you are involved and committed to the well-being of all of the community members. Partnering with institutions in your community can allow you to contribute to their events and make it easier than planning events alone.
Host a Walk or Community Event.
Sertoma provides the opportunity to host a walk for hearing awareness and to raise donations for Sertoma and nonprofit organizations. HLAA also hosts Walk4Hearing events across the nation. These walks or other events can be a great opportunity to raise money to donate to nonprofits that support hearing health-care awareness.
Volunteer to Educate.
Contact your local libraries and host a reading party with a sign language translator or collaborate with schools in the area to host informational sessions. This can be a great opportunity for teaching children about sound and promoting hearing awareness at a young age.
Host a Drive.
Events that are not directly related to audiology, such as a food drive, can provide an opportunity to promote visibility of your clinic within the community, which in turn allows you greater accessibility to provide hearing health care. Donating earmuffs to rescue centers in the winter months is a great way to help your community while at the same time promoting awareness.
No matter how big or small the event, humanitarian audiology is arguably an important part of hearing awareness and hearing prevention efforts, and you need not go far to be a part of these initiatives. Many of these activities go hand-in-hand with the definition of the audiology profession. Additionally, these undertakings can help fuel that internal desire to help those in need, creating in turn a more fulfilled, well-rounded audiologist.
Students can find more humanitarian, educational, advocacy, or fundraising ideas in the SAA Program Ideas Bank at www.studentacademyofaudiology, search keywords “program ideas bank.”