Hearing Loss & the White House
There’s quite a bit of talk in politics, but what about listening? Both sides of communication are incredibly important when getting your message across, whether you call the White House home or not. Here’s a history of hearing loss in our nation’s capitol.
Claudia Gordon currently works at the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. She is also the first deaf African-American female attorney in the United States. Inspired to become a lawyer because of the discrimination she experienced back home in Jamaica, Gordon had this to say to BBC News: “It did cause me to recognize injustice that exists in society toward people who happen to be different — deaf, blind, physically disabled or have a mental disability. I realized then that society does not treat people right, including myself. So from that experience, I realized I wanted to be able to make change, make things better for people like myself.”
Leah Katz-Hernandez —known as ROTUS, the receptionist of the United States — feels the same way, telling the news site, “I want to see the deaf community become more involved with the government, because it has a vital impact on the lives of deaf people. It’s important that they are included. I hope to see many more people like me in the future.”
First Lady Grace Anna Goodhue Coolidge:
This First Lady and wife of Calvin Coolidge was voted one of our nation’s 12 greatest living women in 1931 for her “fine personal influence exerted as First Lady of the Land.” Her connection with hearing loss? She taught at a school for deaf children in Massachusetts, the Clarke Institute for the Deaf. According to the National First Ladies’ Library, “The mere presence of the former teacher of deaf children in the White House focused national attention on a specific constituency among the larger one of those considered handicapped or challenged by a physical disability of one type or another.”
President Theodore Roosevelt:
While his hearing was considered healthy while in office, Roosevelt lost his hearing in his left ear after he suffered from a ruptured eardrum.
President Ronald Reagan:
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is one of the most common kinds of hearing loss. It can happen instantly or over time with continuous exposure to loud noise. Reagan experienced NIHL in one ear when a .38-caliber blank was fired too close to him on a movie set. The president was fit with a Starkey INTRA hearing aid in September 1983.
According to AudiologyOnline.com, the icon helped to reduce stigmas around hearing devices. He became an advocate for those with hearing loss, igniting a movement focused on hearing aid innovation and increased accessibility. President Reagan’s historic fitting also helped him pave the way for today’s world leaders by bringing hearing aids into the public eye.
President Bill Clinton:
This former president wears two Starkey in-the-canal hearing aids since being diagnosed with a moderate loss of high-frequency hearing. It’s believed his hearing loss is the result of gunfire while hunting, political rallies, and listening to loud music. Like many with hearing loss, he ignored his hearing difficulties for years until doctors diagnosed him with high-frequency hearing deficiency, the most common form of hearing loss. Clinton’s hearing loss was caught during a routine physical, highlighting the importance of annual hearing checks, especially after the age of 40. Consult your local hearing care provider on the frequency of your hearing checks.
According to Starkey, in 2013 President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea joined Starkey Hearing Foundation (a foundation that conducts hearing missions in the United States and around the globe to bring better hearing to those in need) on a trip to Africa to donate customized hearing devices to people in Zambia and Rwanda. The foundation has pledged to fit and give more than 100,000 hearing aids annually to people in need as part of President Clinton’s Global Initiative Commitment to Action.
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