APRIL 20, 1962
NEW YORK—In Washington on Wednesday I appeared beforee Sen. Estes Kefauver's committee which was investigating the whole question of hearing aids.
Needless to say, when it comes to technical questions and to costs and production I have no knowledge that could possibly be of use to the committee.
The only thing that justified my being there was the feeling on the part of Senator Kefauver that a great many people who should be wearing hearing aids are not wearing them at the present time, partly because of unwillingness to acknowledge their deafness, partly because they feel hearing aids are unsightly or awkward to wear, and quite often because of the price.
A good hearing aid is rarely obtained under $250 to $350 at the present time. Senator Kefauver knew that I had worn a hearing aid for a long time, so he thought I would be a good witness to discuss the first two points.
It happens that the month of May has been proclaimed by President Kennedy and Mayor Robert Wagner of New York as Better Hearing Month. And it is hoped by the New York League of the Hard of Hearing that an educational campaign, which it will carry on during this month, will point up the safeguards and prevention of hearing impairments and the assistance available.
This organization is the only nonprofit community organization in metropolitan New York to have a complete program and rehabilitation and is open to all people who wish to come for advice.
Throughout the country, however, there are 140 similar organizations which are members of the American Hearing Society and also are always ready to help the public with information and advice.
One of the things I stressed in my testimony was the fact that no one should buy a hearing aid unless he gets professional advice either from a clinic or from his own doctor. There are many different kinds of aids, and only after proper diagnosis can it be determined what treatment and what kind of hearing aid should be prescribed.
As people grow older almost everyone has some decline in the sharpness of his hearing, and certain tones are easier to hear than others. But from different causes people become deaf at various ages and if they do not seek professional help they may easily become the prey of salesmen who claim their hearing aids are good for any kind of hearing difficulty.
There is much research still to be done on all hearing aids, and that is probably one factor in the high price. It might be possible to subsidize, either through government or private sources, the research needed. Certainly, it should be possible through clinics to provide proper hearing aids for all those who cannot afford even a legitimate price, because deafness does out a person off from the world. The tendency of many people is to withdraw within themselves and become more and more remote from the life around them.
There is one other phase of the detection of hearing difficulties which should be carefully watched, I believe. We now treat and educate very carefully those children whom we know have a marked lack of hearing. But there are many youngsters who can get along fairly well in the family but not in school and the difficulty might very well be a hearing defect. Their desks may be placed too far away from the teacher, and their hearing impairment may be alight, but they are written off as dull or stupid when really they are only hearing perhaps one word out of every five or ten that the teacher speaks.
Very often these children are not conscious of what is the matter. This should be watched for, and I believe that schools should insist on periodic examinations of teeth, eyes and ears for every child.
This would certainly make the detection of any defect easier. And it would indicate that a remedy could be applied before the child has suffered what may well turn out to be a real impairment of disposition because of resentment at not being able to participate fully in the life around him.