Since 2010, the Student Academy of Audiology (SAA) has partnered with Special Olympics Healthy Hearing (SOHH) as a national project focused on providing hearing services to athletes competing in the Special Olympics games. In Pennsylvania, there are two weekend-long events each year for Special Olympics: a summer and a winter games. Each weekend provides athletes with the opportunity to compete in the sports they love, see old friends, and make new ones. They are also able to complete health services, including, but not limited to, nutrition, vision, dental and hearing screenings. These events bring together professionals, students, and athletes with one goal in mind: to help these athletes succeed on and off the field.
How does this relate to you as an audiology student? This event provides an opportunity for hands-on time with a population that, as an audiologist, you may encounter quite frequently. It is a great opportunity to get your feet wet and learn some skills in a fun environment while cheering on these athletes. SOHH is a big weekend for the athletes and, with your help, it is even bigger. Outside of working on clinical skills or using the event to get required hearing screening hours, this event is an experience unlike any other. As a profession, we talk a lot about interprofessional interactions and working with other disciplines. SOHH is a time to experience and be involved in something bigger than yourself with the common goal of every professional and volunteer being to help these athletes succeed. When you look at it that way, it is an honor to be a part of this event!
University of Pittsburgh
For the past few years, the University of Pittsburgh SAA chapter has had the privilege of attending the Pennsylvania Regional SOHH Winter games held at the Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Seven Springs, PA. Each year is a great experience for our students. As a program, we have a high volume of students who enjoy working with pediatrics and special populations. This event has helped us provide hands-on volunteer experience for our students while creating connections and interacting with other professionals in the community. Personally, I have enjoyed the relationship with another audiologist in the community who serves as the coordinator of the event. We are fortunate that all we have to do as a group is show up at the site and the equipment and resources are there for us to use! This has been an event we look forward to attending each year as it is a great opportunity, a great population, and a source of support from community audiologists.
Students in the audiology program who have participated in the past few years have commented on the SOHH events. Katelyn Croce and Elise Lerario, both third-year students in the program, noted:
We had the opportunity to screen hearing for the athletes and their family members while working with some Speech-Language Pathology students from the school of the professor who organized the screening event. It was a really unique experience, mixing interprofessional and diverse interactions.
Jenna Loffredo, a second-year student, also provided her thoughts on SOHH:
“At Pitt, we love to find volunteer opportunities that not only involve audiology, but also well-rounded patient and family-centered care. At the Special Olympics, the volunteers and coordinators put together a spectacular event showcasing the skills, talents, and victories of athletes from across the state and provide a weekend for families and friends to meet and bond throughout the weekend. The weekend also offers athletes and families the chance to talk with nutritionists, get their hearing checked, and meet with other healthcare providers who have a focus on men, women, and children with special needs. As someone who attended the event, I was able to take away skills to manage difficult testing situations, but also get to explain tests and results in ways men and women of all ages and cognitive abilities could understand. I look forward to volunteering at this event in the future and soaking up the positivity these athletes radiate!”
This truly is a remarkable event that benefits everyone involved. Our students will continue to attend these games with the hope this year to also attend the Special Olympics Summer Games held at the Pennsylvania State University in State College, PA.
As a chapter, we have worked to raise money to cover our travel expenses to attend this event each year. Along with our own efforts, we sought out grants through SAA and the American Academy of Audiology Foundation (AAAF). We would not have been able to attend these events these past few years without the help from the SAA Special Olympics Healthy Hearing Chapter Participation Grant. This grant is provided by the American Academy of Audiology Foundation and helps to supplement fundraising efforts SAA chapters complete on their own to cover travel expenses and supplies. Applications are due two times a year, February 1 and October 1. This grant is available each year and is something chapters should take advantage of when considering attending a SOHH event.
So how can you get involved? The SAA Development Committee is working on an initiative to get more SAA chapters involved in SOHH. If you are interested in locating a Special Olympics games in your area and/or are not sure where to start, please contact the SAA Development Committee. SOHH events provide skills, interprofessional connections, and a chance to make a difference in these athletes’ lives. As a chapter, please consider getting involved in the upcoming year. You will not regret it!
Kylie Hill is a third-year audiology student at the University of Pittsburgh. Kylie will be completing her fourth-year externship at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center Department of Audiology. She currently serves as a member of the SAA Development Committee and as Treasurer for the University of Pittsburgh SAA. Kylie can be contacted at email@example.com regarding any questions about getting involved in SOHH.
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