World Games Updates
Healthy Athletes volunteer Ben Kirby from California (USA) fits Special Olympics Idaho athlete Bill Lutz with new hearing aids.
Silence is for the Putting Green, not Every Moment of Life
Bill Lutz, a 58-year-old Special Olympics golfer from Boise, has had hearing difficulty his entire life and trouble with his hearing aids for the past few years, but it wasn’t until a Healthy Athletes event at the Special Olympics Idaho Invitational Games last year that Special Olympics Idaho discovered the extent of his problems. His hearing aids were more than 15 years old. “They don’t even make these anymore,” said the volunteer doctor at the event. The antiquated devices had left him with no hearing in one ear and very limited hearing in the other.
Unfortunately, hearing aids were not available for athletes at the Invitational Games, but when Special Olympics Healthy Hearing came to Boise during the World Winter Games this week, volunteers invited him back even though he wasn’t competing at the Games. They fitted him with brand-new devices free of charge. Healthy Hearing is one of the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes disciplines. Healthy Athletes offers athletes free health care screenings by volunteer health-care professionals at competition events.
Tom Stephenson, Lutz’s cousin and caregiver for the past 11 years (since his parents passed away), expressed relief that the problem has finally been addressed. “He has missed out on a lot,” Stephenson said. “He turns his hearing aids up so loud that they whistle. He couldn’t hear me most of the time – I just had to hope he could read my lips.” As with many athletes who receive care at Healthy Athletes screenings, the results were immediate and dramatic. During his screenings, Lutz spoke very loudly and often didn’t respond to questions posed to him. Within minutes of his new hearing aids being turned on, he was speaking with and thanking the doctors and other volunteers in the venue.
Lutz’s story is not unique. In only the first three days of screenings at the World Winter Games, more than 65 hearing aids were given to athletes. These findings are also consistent with past Healthy Hearing events. In the past three World Games, 22 percent of athletes screened were unable to pass a hearing test.
According to officials at Special Olympics Idaho, Lutz is a well-known athlete in Boise, and they expressed confidence that his improved hearing will help him participate more fully in Special Olympics in the future.