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JMU Represents Virginia in Special Olympics’ Healthy Hearing

By: Christine Borkowski
Posted: September 12, 2010

PHOTO: CSD studentsOver the years, Special Olympics International has found that the intellectually disabled are 40 percent more likely to develop medical problems which led to the formation of the Healthy Athletes Initiative.

Every year, the Special Olympics offers free health screenings for all their athletes at local, regional and World competitions under programs such as Fit Feet, FUNFitness, Health Promotion, Opening Eyes, Special Smiles and Healthy Hearing.

Healthy Hearing 2.0 is the start of post-screening care in 2011. As part of a trial Phonak, is donating hearing aids to give to athletes that are determined to have suffered hearing loss.  James Madison University represents the state of Virginia in this Innovative Practice Initiative.

Dr. Brenda Ryals, the Virginia Healthy Hearing coordinator and JMU CSD faculty, said, “If the athlete doesn’t pass the screen, and it looks like they have hearing loss, we will do some extra testing to see if hearing aids are the answer.”

The athletes and their caregivers then get their complimentary hearing aids fitted and calibrated to meet their needs. Since Healthy Hearing 2.0 is on trial basis, the athletes that are given hearing aids must live within an hour radius of JMU so that the audiologists at JMU can be within easy access for the whole process, from fitting to maintenance.

CSD Graduate student Andrea Luizzo screened athletes for hearing loss when the Regional Games came to Richmond June 10-11. “It was wonderful to be a part of Healthy Hearing this year and to provide our services to Special Olympics athletes who, otherwise, may not be able to access hearing healthcare.”

The Phonak and Special Olympics partnership was announced at the American Academy of Audiology conference on April 8 in Chicago. The three-year commitment will give Special Olympics Athletes 400 hearing aids in 2011, 600 in 2012, and 660 in 2013.