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What is a Peer Mentor?

A peer mentor is an individual who is d(D)eaf or hard-of-hearing and trained to work with other individuals with acquired hearing loss who are in need of support, information, teaching, and/or advocacy, in order to live their life as seamlessly as possible.

Why are Peer Mentors Needed?

According to the Hearing Health Foundation as of 2020, 48 million people in the United States have a hearing loss. Among adults aged 70 and older with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than one in three (30 percent) has ever used them; even fewer adults aged 20 to 69 (approximately 16 percent) who could benefit from wearing hearing aids have obtained hearing aids (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)).

While hearing loss is a physical diagnosis one must manage, it is also intricately tied with psychological and social aspects of life. It is the complexity and impact of hearing loss that often makes it difficult for consumers to digest information and become good advocates for their needs. An audiologist will typically provide care and management to individuals with hearing loss who seek services, but it is often difficult for consumers to obtain the multitude of information and support necessary to truly cope with and manage their hearing needs. Peer mentors are needed so that they are available to assist these individuals by supplementing information they have already acquired, share in their struggles, validate their experiences, and provide the resources and support needed to enable these individuals to become effective users of technology and advocates for their needs.

What is the Role of a Peer Mentor?

The role of the peer mentor in auditory rehabilitation is a revolutionary concept in the area of audiology. The role of the peer mentor may include but is not limited to:

  • Understanding and empathizing with the struggles that an individual with a hearing loss may be facing in everyday life
  • Working with consumers to better understand and cope with the psychological and social impacts of hearing loss on themselves, their families, and peers
  • Acting as a liaison between the audiologist, other professionals, and the consumer
  • Helping consumers successfully learn about and adapt to the use of hearing technologies and assistive devices
  • Helping consumers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing to use appropriate communication strategies to maximize communication success with others in various listening environments
  • Helping consumers develop an understanding of law and public policy related to disability and hearing loss
  • Sharing with consumers, strategies that they can use to advocate for themselves and help ensure their civil rights
  • Dispelling common myths with the goal of reducing stigma in society as it relates to hearing loss and deafness
  • Providing resources and support to audiologists and other related professionals

Peer mentors who have graduated from this program have come from different professions and walks of life with a variety of goals and reasons for participating in this program. If you are interested in working or already work with a hearing loss association, an audiologist, government or state disability programs/projects that serve a large percentage of individuals with hearing loss, or are interested in the development of self, self-advocacy, or self-identity, you may want to consider the Peer Mentoring Program.

What are the Objectives of the Peer Mentoring Program?

The long-term objectives of the Peer Mentoring Program are to meet the holistic needs of individuals with hearing loss by building a vocation of professionals who can become part of a multidisciplinary team, a team that can better serve those with hearing loss. The short-term objectives of this program are to collaborate and facilitate self-actualization in individuals with hearing loss, and create a body of empathetic adults trained to meet the needs of the hearing loss community.