Once again, we're nearing the end of Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM). This year's theme was Connecting People—and we hope that in spite of the fact that the pandemic is still ongoing in many regions, you had the opportunity to do just that. With that said, now seems as good a time as any to take a look back.

Way back.

Specifically back to the origins of BHSM. It makes for a very interesting story, after all. And it's always good to understand the origins of such an important annual event. 

So, with that said, how did BHSM get its start? 

National Hearing Week and The American Academy of Speech Correction (1925-1978) 
Today, BHSM is hosted annually by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), an organization of audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and other professionals specializing in identifying and treating issues related to hearing and communication. That hasn't always been the case, however. The origins of BHSM actually trace back to 1927, when it was conceived as National Hearing Week by the Federation of Organizations for the Hard of Hearing.

That isn't to say BHSM's origins aren't tied together with the origins of ASHA. They most definitely are, though perhaps not in the way you might expect. It was also around this time that ASHA got its start, though back then it was a far cry from the respected industry group of today. 

As noted by the ASHA itself, just two years before the first National Hearing Week, the National Association of Teachers of Speech (NATS) in New York City hosted an informal meeting. At the time, many members of NATS were interested in the idea of speech correction—again, a far cry from today. Together, they decided to establish an organization focused on "scientific, organized work in the field of speech correction." 

Thus was the American Academy of Speech Correction born. For the first few decades of its existence, the new association experienced what one might call a bit of an identity crisis. It changed its name no less than four times over the course of its existence: 

  • The American Society for the Study of Disorders of Speech in 1927.
  • The American Speech Correction Association in 1934.
  • The American Speech and Hearing Association in 1947.
  • The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in 1978.

National Hearing Week actually changed surprisingly little over the years. In 1958, it became Better Hearing Month. Then in 1972, it changed its name once more to Better Hearing & Speech Month. 

It has existed relatively unchanged in this iteration ever since, managed and maintained entirely by the ASHA. 

From Past to Present (1979-2022)

BHSM as we know it is now entering its 50th anniversary. The ASHA has marked the occasion with multiple fundraisers, keynotes, concerts, and conferences each year.  It also releases educational materials and fact sheets, directs people towards resources that promote hearing health, and provides resources for a wide range of different hearing and speech disorders.

Recent years have seen the most marked changes in BHSM, as COVID-19 has made physical events a near-impossibility. The ASHA has adapted quite well to this new climate, pivoting to online events and virtual conferences with relative ease. As you might expect, many of the more recent themes have had at least some connection to the challenges and difficulties experienced by the hard of hearing and speech impaired during the pandemic. 

What The Future May Hold for BHSM

Perhaps the most interesting factoid about BHSM is that as it concludes its 50th year, the ASHA is considering a name change. Nothing is set in stone yet, mind you—per the association, the name is currently in review. It acknowledges that there are pros and cons to both courses of action, though it hasn't offered much in the way of further explanation. 

As yet, there's no concrete date for the name change, which wouldn't take effect until at least next year. The AHSM has further stated that anyone that wishes to may submit a name for consideration by emailing pr@asha.org. Why not try coming up with a few ideas? 

Who knows, you might have the rare distinction of being the person who renamed Better Speech & Hearing Month for the first time in half a century.