May 28, 2020 at 5:00 am ET
Helen Keller once famously said, “Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic I have heard, read and been asked the question, “Are hearing aids essential?” When posed this question, I suggest taking out the word “aid” and asking it again. “Is hearing essential?”
For people who battle hearing loss, it can be a fight to stay engaged, perform their job or be there for their family and friends. They are present but separated by an invisible barrier that can limit social engagement and performance throughout their lives. People need to be connected to their loved ones and their community.
We already know that hearing loss causes loneliness. Now, add these trying times we are all facing and the fear that comes from not being able to hear a news broadcast or participate in a family discussion about these important topics. Fortunately, the hearing industry and the thousands of hearing health care professionals across the country have the unique ability to provide peace and reassurance through better hearing.
During a crisis, it’s more important than ever that people stay connected. Hearing healthcare professionals know this is not as simple as buying a cheap device online. This route is missing the most important element of the process: the experience, expertise and care of the hearing health care professional.
There is an urgent demand from current hearing aid wearers needing repairs or needing their hearing professional or audiologist to “get them back online” as soon as possible. There are also the people for whom quarantine has made a hearing loss, or a family member’s hearing loss, more obvious and who are ready to act. But how do we do that safely in these unfamiliar waters?
With global discussions happening on COVID-19, our first thoughts should be ones of safety and keeping people well. Hearing health care professionals are adapting to a world with COVID-19 and providing care in a different, but still safe and responsible way. Individuals with hearing loss should know that they can be seen safely and the hearing industry is here to help them.
Hearing health care professionals are adopting updated safety and cleanliness practices and limiting the number of people in their offices during a patient visit, while using personal protective equipment. We must continue to practice social distancing whenever possible and use common sense. Lastly, patients should know that safety is our No. 1 concern.
For weeks, businesses have been quiet while people stay home and wait to see what’s next. Hearing loss won’t go away, and neither will the patients who need our help. Hearing health care professionals are responsibly adjusting to the current circumstances while continuing to lead with their hearts and care for patients. It’s important that people with hearing loss have the opportunity to safely see a local hearing health care provider in their community for a certified test and receive a hearing aid solution personalized to their ear and their loss.
In these unprecedented times, when everyone is debating what is and isn’t essential, I say this: Hearing health care has always been essential and will always be essential. What the hearing industry provides is needed, for many, now more than ever. Hearing health care professionals are the gateway to peace and assurance for those who would otherwise be even more isolated than a lot of us are feeling right now.
We must show that we care, lead with our hearts and help those who need help. Hearing health is a necessity, and better hearing can never be compromised.
Brandon Sawalich is the president of Starkey, the only American-owned hearing aid manufacturer, and serves as the chairman of the Hearing Industries Association, where he works to educate Capitol Hill, government agencies and the public about the important link between hearing loss and overall health and wellness.
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