Mr. Lehman is a retired U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant who worked at the highest levels of the Defense Department as a combat correspondent. His 20-year career took him from Desert Storm operations in the first Gulf War to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Now he works with Heroes With Hearing Loss® striving to provide solutions to Veterans with hearing loss.
Q What do you think is the most urgent issue currently affecting hearing health care among veterans and how is your program positioned to best address it?
LEHMAN: According to the Defense Department, hearing loss is the no. 1 service-connected disability facing veterans of every generation. It is particularly prevalent among younger veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. For many of these men and women, hearing loss is intertwined with other comorbidities incurred from their time in service such as tinnitus, traumatic brain injury and posttraumatic stress disorder, to name a few. When you mix all these conditions together, it creates very serious and potentially life-threatening challenges for our nation's veterans and can make them feel isolated and helpless.
The Heroes With Hearing Loss program provides viable, real-life solutions for veterans with hearing loss. We want to make sure that veterans understand that they are not facing their challenges alone. Hundreds of thousands of those who served alongside them are going through the same experience. If we start talking about these issues together, we can start overcoming them together.
We do that by starting a conversation among veterans, their family members, and hearing health care professionals so that everyone understands what unique obstacles veterans with hearing loss are up against. It starts with awareness and ends with giving our country's heroes a better life.
Q What are top company values that helped you forge a distinctive name in the hearing industry?
LEHMAN: The Heroes With Hearing Loss program was conceived by the team at Hamilton Telecommunications. Founded in Nebraska 115 years ago, Hamilton embodies the core values and principles of Middle America, and part of their commitment to giving back to American communities is supporting those who defend them. They're taking their decades of knowledge and experience within the hearing loss industry and putting it to use on behalf of our veterans through the program. Hamilton also offers a CapTel® captioned telephone at no-cost* to any veteran with a verified hearing loss.
But it's important to understand that the program is about so much more than just solutions. It's about reaching out to these men and women who have sacrificed so much for us, and reconnecting them with their family, friends, and the community of fellow service-members with whom they spent so much of their lives. You would be amazed at the life-changing impact that reconnection can have.
Q October is National Audiology Awareness Month. How does Heroes With Hearing Loss promote awareness? What does it mean to you to make a difference in the hearing health community?
LEHMAN: Our goal is to support veterans with hearing loss, period. So we're constantly looking at ways in which we can accomplish that. Shari Penner, our National Programs Manager, travels with her team to veteran, audiology and consumer events around the U.S. sharing our program and its solutions with veterans and their family members. We've built some amazing relationships and we've been able to witness first-hand how just starting the conversation can really make a positive impact on a veteran's life.
However, what we've learned is that often audiologists and other hearing health care providers may not even know that they're treating a veteran! Those who have served definitely have a certain humility about them and may not be quick to open up about their service. As a result, they have a tendency to hold back valuable information that could affect their care. So, as part of National Audiology Awareness Month, we're making a real effort to reach out to the hearing health community and tell them, “Just ask.” Ask your patients if they're a veteran. If they are, introduce them to the Heroes With Hearing Loss program so they know there are proven, life-style focused solutions that can work for them and, most importantly, that they're not alone in their hearing loss journey.
Heroes With Hearing Loss is provided by Hamilton CapTel®; CapTel is a registered trademark of Ultratec, Inc. For more information, visit HeroesWithHearingLoss.org.
*Independent third-party professional certification required.