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Phonak and Special Olympics join forces with US Olympian, former Congressman Jim Ryun

WARRENVILLE, Ill., June 7, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Former US Olympian Jim Ryun set the record for the mile as a high school junior, competed in three US Olympics and held a seat in Congress from 1996-2007. Now he's partnered with Phonak and Special Olympics to set another record:  the overall number of people in the US who take care of their hearing health.

About Healthy Athletes, Healthy Hearing

Healthcare outcomes data show that people with intellectual disabilities are historically underserved when it comes to accessing certain basic healthcare needs. Nearly one in three Special Olympics athletes in the United States fail hearing screenings, making them candidates for further evaluation and in many cases, treatment through hearing aids. Unfortunately, many have never had their hearing tested or have been unable to afford hearing aids due to a lack of health insurance or access to care in general.

That's why Ryun (who suffers from hearing loss), Special Olympics and Phonak have joined forces as part of the Healthy Hearing program.

During key local Special Olympic Games, athletes will undergo an onsite hearing screening as part of the Healthy Hearing program. Those who are identified with potential hearing loss will be directed to an audiologist in their local market who will provide further evaluation and treatment. For those who require them, they will receive Phonak hearing instruments free of charge.

"Imagine the number of athletes not able to hear the roar of the crowd when they cross the finish line," said Ryun. "That undoubtedly has a significantly negative impact upon their competition, not to mention the impact to their ability to respond to information from coaches, trainers and judges. The safety and interpersonal relationships of these athletes can also be impeded by hearing loss, too. That's why I'm here to encourage Richmond residents to support their Special Olympics athletes as well as undergo their own hearing screening."

Show Your Support

Brenda Ryals, Ph.D. Clinical Director of Healthy Hearing in Virginia, professor of communication sciences and disorders and director of auditory research laboratory at James Madison University, encourages everyone to support the Healthy Hearing initiative. "I've been working with the Healthy Hearing program since 2003 and even with great access to hearing healthcare in the United States, people with intellectual disabilities are still underserved," said Dr. Ryals.

"It's so necessary for these athletes to get screened at the Games and receive more in-depth testing close to home. To see the positive benefits that someone experiences from hearing healthcare is remarkable, and I love being a part of the overall solution for these athletes."

From being screened to competing, these athletes demonstrate a wonderful "no barriers" attitude

Dr. Ryals hopes will inspire other Americans to follow. "More than 36 million Americans currently suffer from some degree of hearing loss, yet fewer than 20 percent of people with hearing loss seek treatment. I encourage everyone to show their support for these athletes by getting a hearing test," she concluded.

Richmond residents can take a free online hearing test to show their support for the partnership and address their hearing health.

Get Inspired

Here's one testimonial about an athlete fitted with hearing aids as a result of the Healthy Hearing program last year:

Leonard was fitted for his hearing aid by Phonak and Special Olympics as a result of the Healthy Hearing screening last year. Because of his hearing impairment and his intellectual disability, it was perceived that Leonard wasn't as high functioning as he actually is, which became more apparent once he had the hearing aid fitted and in place. Sadly, Leonard's father passed away around Christmas. However, since Leonard received the hearing aid not only was he able to attend his father's funeral, he HEARD the eulogy – which never would have been possible without this incredible gift!

About Phonak

Headquartered near Zurich, Switzerland, Phonak, a member of Sonova Group, has developed, produced and globally distributed state-of-the-art hearing systems and wireless devices for more than 60 years. The combination of expertise in hearing technology, mastery in acoustics and strong cooperation with hearing care professionals allows Phonak to significantly improve people's hearing ability and speech understanding and therefore their quality of life.

Phonak offers a complete range of digital hearing instruments, along with complementary wireless communication systems. With a worldwide presence, Phonak drives innovation and sets new industry benchmarks regarding miniaturization and performance.

About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives through the power of sport by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to nearly 4 million athletes in over 170 countries in all regions of the world, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition and other related programs. Special Olympics now takes place every day, changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities all over the world, from community playgrounds and ball fields in every small neighborhood's backyard to World Games. Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special Olympics at Engage with us on: Twitter @specialolympics;;, and

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