Stupid stuff happens in 2017, but it was alive and well five years ago, too, when Hearing Views editor David Kirkwood reported in on March 14, 2012.
By David H. Kirkwood
Anyone who spends as much time as I do scouring the web for hearing health-related news has to wade through an enormous mass of content. Some of it is interesting, accurate, timely, and useful to people who share our conviction here at this blog that hearing health matters. For the most part, I select items that fall into this category to report on at Hearing News Watch.
However, for every substantive news item I find, I reject a dozen online offerings that are not. Many of these serve only to promote whoever posted them. Others are of no interest to anyone beyond the poster and his immediate family. Quite a few seem highly questionable, and a whole lot are silly, absurd, or downright stupid.
If you’ll indulge me, this week I’m going to focus on this last area–stupid stuff online. After all, no matter how stupid some stories are, they may provide a “teachable moment.”
SHADES OF MIKE TYSON
That’s not true of all junk news. For example, can anything really be learned from the story of a 34-year-old assistant coach of a grade school team in a Springfield, MA, boys basketball league? The coach, whose team lost, was charged this week with biting off part of the ear of the opposing coach after the game. Talk about bad losers! If you missed the story on the March 12 Good Morning, America, you can see it online–but I don’t recommend it.
HAZARDOUS HEARING AIDS
It may have gone unnoticed by the U.S. media, but the absurd behavior of a soccer official in South Yorkshire, England, has generated stories in half a dozen newspapers in the UK over the past couple of weeks.
For reasons that made sense only to him, Gary Mellor, who was refereeing a match between amateur teams from two local pubs, ordered 23-year-old Craig Beech, a player with the Masons Arms team, to remove his hearing aids. Why? Because they could be a hazard, Mellior said.
Beech, who has used hearing aids since age 4, pointed out that he had worn them in 120 soccer matches over the past six years without incident. But the ref was unmoved. He said that Beech would have to either take them out or leave the game.
Playing without them would be dangerous, Beech protested, since he would be unable to hear the referee’s whistle and might bang into an opposition player not realizing that play had been stopped. To their credit, Beech’s teammates refused to continue the match without him, and so it ended midway through the first half.
As readers are all too well aware, there continues to be stigma attached to hearing loss and hearing aids. But this episode suggests that the ignorance and groundless fears about them may be even greater than we had realized. It also points out that providers and consumers of hearing healthcare still have their work cut out to win general public understanding and acceptance of this common disability and the various ways it can be addressed.
CHILDREN WITH HEARING LOSS GET LEFT BEHIND
The last regrettable development that I want to comment on did not start stupidly. Quite the opposite.
West Virginia seemed poised to become the 20th state to pass legislation requiring health insurance companies doing business in the state to cover hearing aids for children.
Making sure that every family can afford the hearing help their child needs is smart for a lot of reasons. For one thing, providing a mainstream education to a child who can hear with hearing aids is much less expensive for the state than educating him or her in a school for the deaf. What’s more, when that child becomes an adult, he or she will be better prepared to succeed in the workplace because of having heard from an early age and having functioned in a mainstream environment.
While insurance companies initially fought this type of legislation, now they seem to have accepted it. Fortunately, the percentage of children who need hearing aids is quite small, so the financial impact on insurers is not very significant.
Certainly the hearing aid measure seemed like a good idea to West Virginia legislators. The Senate passed its bill 33-0, and the House of Delegates version passed 100-0.
That’s when the stupidity began. The Senate bill required children to see a physician before they getting hearing aids. The House bill said the children could see a physician or a licensed audiologist. A House-Senate conference committee met to try to resolve the differences between the two bills.
Unfortunately, that proved impossible. An MD in the Senate said that requiring children to be seen by a doctor was necessary to protect their safety. The House judiciary chairman said that the House bill was better because it would make it easier for children to get hearing aids. He also charged that the Senate bill was designed specifically to provide revenues for physicians. Because no compromise was reached, both bills died on March 11, the final day of the 2012 legislative session.
There is nothing especially unusual about this episode. In the hearing care field, turf battles among audiologists, hearing instrument specialists, and physicians often get in the way of the public’s hearing health.
And, in Washington, the repeated failure of Congress to reach bipartisan agreements on the crucial issues of the day has resulted in constant gridlock and unprecedented levels of public disapproval.
Still, considering how much sense this West Virginia bill made and given that both houses of the legislature overwhelmingly supported the basic goal of covering hearing aids for the state’s children, it is as sad as it is stupid that children with hearing loss were once again left behind.