Did you know that nearly 25 percent of adult Canadians experience some degree of hearing loss? While age-related hearing loss is a common symptom of the natural aging progression, with 1 in 6 baby boomers having some level of hearing loss, it is not only older Canadians who are affected. According to the Canadian Hearing Society (CHS), hearing loss among teenagers rose by 31 percent between the mid-90s and mid-2000s, while 3 in 1,000 infants enter the world with serious-to-profound hearing loss.
CHS is a charitable agency founded in 1940 to advocate for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. CHS’s mission is to remove communication barriers and promote equity for people with hearing loss. In 2015, CHS celebrates its 75th anniversary of providing much-needed national advocacy.
CHS offers many essential services to people all across Canada, including conducting hearing tests, providing hearing aids, offering counselling, and connecting people with assistive communication devices like text telephones (TTYs), and visual household devices (smoke detectors, baby monitors, and alarm clocks). CHS also offers sign language interpretation and instruction, one-on-one language development for children, and speechreading training. All services are offered by trained and experienced professionals. CHS seeks to inform and educate consumers about hearing loss and communications devices.
In this article, we will walk you through the main causes and symptoms of hearing loss, describe CHS’ modern treatment options to manage the effects of hearing loss and discuss preventative measures to slow or stop the speed of hearing loss and protect your aural health.
The Causes of Hearing Loss
The two largest categories of hearing loss are noise-induced and age-related. According to Rex Banks, Chief Audiologist with CHS, 33 percent of hearing loss is noise induced and entirely preventable. “Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) can occur after a single exposure to a very loud sound. It can also be the result of long-term overexposure to moderate or loud sounds.” Despite being “cumulative, permanent, and irreversible,” Banks explains that NIHL is entirely preventable with mindful measures explained below.
Age-related hearing loss (known medically as presbycusis) is the “cumulative effect of aging on hearing.” Banks explains that age-related hearing loss “is progressive, occurs in both ears in equal amounts, and affects the high frequencies first.” According to CHS, aging is the number one cause of hearing loss, and the numbers will only grow as the Canadian population ages. Hearing loss increases with age, so people over 50 should be retested at least once annually for assessment.
Signs of Hearing Loss
Whether caused by overexposure to loud noise or the passage of time, CHS identifies the following common signs of hearing loss:
- Difficulty understanding speech
- Difficulty distinguishing speech from background noise
- Needing words to be repeated
- Sounds seeming muffled
- Needing TV or radio at a louder volume than usual
- Experiencing ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
If you experience any of these signs and symptoms, it is crucial that you book an appointment with a CHS registered audiologist right away. Early detection is key, and you need not suffer with these symptoms any longer.
Whether you need a hearing aid, assistive listening device, tinnitus therapy or strategies for communication, your audiologist can help you get reconnected to the world around you.
During your appointment, your CHS audiologist will inquire about your background, medical history, and ask about your sound environment at home and work. They will check your ears and perform a range of tests to evaluate the state of your hearing. The results are recorded on an audiogram. Your audiologist will review the results with you and recommend treatment options depending on the severity of your hearing loss.
Undiagnosed Hearing Loss
The average Canadian with hearing loss waits six to 10 years before seeking help. Banks identifies undiagnosed hearing loss as a significant issue in our country. “Research links untreated hearing loss to depression, isolation and withdrawal,” Banks says. Undiagnosed hearing loss can also place additional pressure on relationships, “due to stress, anger and fatigue from miscommunication.”
Take ownership of your aural health and visit a CHS audiologist at least once per year.
Hearing Loss Management
Hearing loss can be managed through a combination of assistive devices like hearing aids, safety devices like earplugs, education, and aural rehabilitation. One in 10 people can “improve communication with properly fitted hearing aids and rehabilitative counselling” alone.
Hearing aid technology has improved tremendously in the past few years. Hearing aids are smaller, more discreet, and produce more natural sound than ever. Technological advances like directional microphones and mini-internal computers combine to produce authentic sound that adapts to the wearer’s listening preferences.
To counter noise-related hearing loss, Banks recommends following the Remove – Reduce – Rest strategy. “The first line of defense is to remove as much noise as possible from the environment and reduce the amount of noise that enters into the listening space,” says Banks. “Following exposure to loud noise, auditory rest is crucial for allowing the hearing system an opportunity to recover.”
If you work in a noisy environment (music, construction etc.), speak with your employer about hearing protection and talk to your audiologist to find out whether specialized earplugs are right for you. If your hobbies include loud concerts or loud sporting events, wear earplugs or earmuffs as appropriate.
Visit your CHS audiologist yearly to test your hearing and stop or slow hearing loss. Early detection is absolutely crucial. For more information about hearing loss, speak with a registered audiologist or contact CHS.
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