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Healthy Hearing

A Special Olympics Michigan athletes receives a hearing screening.

Special Olympics Healthy Hearing screenings are designed to ensure proper audiological care for participating Special Olympics athletes. Led by volunteer professionals, Healthy Hearing also provides tests for cerumen (ear wax) and otoacoustic emissions tests. The amount of hearing loss among Special Olympics athletes is much greater than that found in the general population. Most athletes’ hearing problems are previously undetected, un-served or under-treated.

The objectives of Healthy Hearing include:

  • Increase access to hearing care for Special Olympics athletes, as well as all people with intellectual disabilities.
  • Identify medical issues causing hearing loss and permanent hearing loss and provide referral for follow-up care.
  • Provide a list of regional audiologists and ear, nose and throat specialists who care for people with special needs to all athletes who participate in the Special Olympics Healthy Hearing program.
  • Raise audiologist’s awareness of the hearing concerns of people with special needs, including the difficulties involved in diagnosing and accessing treatment options.

Additional research conducted with athletes at Special Olympics events has revealed:

  • 39% have blocked or partially blocked ear canals
  • 27% failed Puretone hearing examinations
  • 11% have bilateral sensorineural hearing loss

Available screenings:

Healthy Hearing events are offered at the State Summer Games.  Athletes visit at least two of five screening stations: Ear Canal Exam, Test for Hearing Impairment, Middle Ear Screening, Puretone Screening and Noise Protection.  Hearing education is provided to develop athlete’s knowledge of ear canal hygiene and ways to prevent hearing loss from noise exposure.

Information for Healthcare Professionals

Interested in becoming a clinical director? 

Clinical Directors are an important part of the Healthy Athletes Healthy Hearing team. Clinical Directors are responsible for working with their local Special Olympics Program and other volunteer health professionals in coordinating a Healthy Hearing event in their region.

Clinical Director Details

Clinical Director Interest Form

Interested in volunteering at a Special Smiles event? 

Volunteer roles are available for individuals of all backgrounds. Examples of volunteer roles available at Healthy Hearing screenings include:

  • Screeners
  • Scribes
  • Patient education
  • Athlete registration
  • Athlete guides

To register to volunteer at a Healthy Hearing event, contact Kellie Murphy at