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Special Olympics Healthy Hearing Program

Special Olympic athletes

Athletes and coaches from Cypress
pose for a picture with Judy
Montgomery, a founder of the Healthy
Hearing Program, 
Jenelle Ezcurra,
Barbara Winslow Warren

Photo: Barbara Winslow Warren

In early February of 2009, faculty member Barbara Winslow Warren, AuD, Clinical Assistant Professor, Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences, and Jenelle Ezcurra, BS, AuD student (class of 2011), were two of 20 individuals from around the world invited to train as Clinical Directors for Healthy Hearing at the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Boise, Idaho. Representatives from countries near and far came to learn the meaning of Special Olympics and how to incorporate Healthy Hearing into their states and countries.

Healthy Hearing is a discipline within the Healthy Athletes program. Healthy Athletes began in 1997 and provided only one type of health screening (dental). Since the official launch in 1997, Healthy Athletes has grown from one discipline to seven, including Opening Eyes, Special Smiles, Healthy Hearing, Fit Feet, Health Promotion, MedFest, and Fun Fitness. All disciplines provide free health screenings and services to Special Olympic athletes at local, state/provincial, national, and world games. Within the Healthy Hearing program, licensed audiologists supervise hearing screenings involving external ear inspection, evoked otoacoustic emissions, tympanometry, and pure tone screenings for those with identified need. Healthy Hearing assesses an athlete’s hearing and provides reports to coaches and caregivers if follow-up care is needed. Follow-up care may include earwax removal, medical referral, hearing aid fitting, and/or recommendation for hearing protection.

At the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Boise, the Healthy Hearing Program screened over 1,000 athletes for hearing loss and fit over 70 athletes with hearing aids. Warren has been working with global clinical advisers and state representatives to implement a Healthy Hearing program within the North Carolina Special Olympics in order to inform students, colleagues, and members of the community about the abilities and health needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Special Olympics Health Athletes: