Contributed by Brande Plotnick, MS, MBA
Many of us at Healthy Hearing think about hearing loss and hearing aids nearly every day. For everyone else, the month each year to be aware of all things related to hearing is May. It’s Better Hearing and Speech Month, and usually we talk about the impact hearing loss has on your health, relationships and career, how to prevent hearing loss and how to best treat hearing loss if you already have it. But, what if you want to make a difference in the world for people who have hearing loss, would you know where to start?
We’ve compiled a list of organizations that put hearing loss and its challenges front and center, raising money and awareness for this important cause. Now is a great time to get involved.
Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA)
Originally founded by Howard E. “Rocky” Stone in 1979 as Self Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH), the organization was renamed Hearing Loss Association of America in 2006. Since its inception, its mission has remained the same: to represent the estimated 48 million Americans who have hearing loss and drive advocacy. HLAA bring consumers and lawmakers together to shape public policy, communication access and service delivery for those with hearing loss.
HLAA uses its signature event, Walk4Hearing, as a primary way to build awareness and raise money. These walks are taking place in 21 cities in 2017, so it’s easy to find one near you. If you can’t participate in a walk, you can also donate online to HLAA to help fund their important work.
Dogs for the Deaf
Dogs for the Deaf does great things on two fronts: they rescue dogs from shelters, and they train them to be hearing dogs and companion animals for people with hearing loss or autism.
Responding to a request for a trained service dog from a Minnesota woman who had lost her hearing, the American Humane Association enlisted the help of Roy Kabat, a former exotic animal trainer. Mr. Kabat worked with the association in Denver and then returned to Oregon to start his own organization, Dogs for the Deaf, in 1977. Dogs for the Deaf maintains a lifetime commitment to the animals they rescue and their eventual owners.
If you’re interested in helping, support Dogs for the Deaf by making an online donation, sponsoring a specific dog, purchasing items from the online store or purchasing dog care items and toys from the Dogs for the Deaf Wish List.
Global Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss
Global Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss operates at the intersection of education and hearing advocacy. While hearing impaired children in the U.S. may have access to technology and programs to receive education like other children, globally, only 10 percent of kids with hearing loss have equal access to education.
Global Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss works to remedy this situation through teacher, therapist and medical professional training, research and the distribution of hearing devices to children in developing countries. Currently, the group is working in Vietnam on its Deaf Education Program. Since the summer of 2010, the group has trained more than 220 teachers, 125 medical professionals and 270 families, and it has fit hundreds of children with hearing aids. The program directly benefits more than 1000 Vietnamese children with hearing loss.
You can support Global Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss through online donations, vehicle donation and, for those with a degree in hearing and speech sciences or deaf education, donating time and expertise.
Hearing Health Foundation (HHF)
The largest funder of hearing loss and tinnitus research, HHF has an ambitious vision: a world where everyone has the opportunity to enjoy life without hearing loss or tinnitus. Since 1958, they’ve contributed millions of dollars to important research, including that which has lead to cochlear implant technology. They actively fund research today focused on hearing loss prevention, the restoration of hearing ability and cures for tinnitus.
You can donate to this worthy cause online with a one-time gift, monthly pledge or a tribute gift in memory of a loved one. You may also visit the organization’s online “wish list” to make an impact in a specific way. Items on the wish list range from molecular biology kits and the use of electron microscope and computers for a few hundred dollars to a $30,000 sponsorship of the organization’s annual meeting of the Hearing Restoration Project.
American Society for Deaf Children (ASDC)
This organization, which was established in 1967, operates on the mantra that all children should have full access to communication in their schools, communities and homes. American Society for Deaf Children supports early language development programs, and it serves as a network of support for parents and families with deaf children. ASDC is a wealth of information, especially for parents whose children were recently diagnosed with hearing loss, and provides the latest research and events around the country for families with a hearing-impaired child.
If you’d like to support this great cause that helps families find information and support in difficult circumstances, you can make a donation to ASDC or purchase a membership.
Sometimes, charity begins at home
If you have an unresolved hearing loss yourself, one of the best ways to make a positive impact in your life and for those you communicate with every day is to seek help. Today’s hearing aids work, they are widely available and there are solutions to fit every need and budget. If you need help, check out our directory of clinics where you can find hearing healthcare providers near you, read reviews from other consumers and call to set an appointment.