The Hearing Foundation of Canada has carried out research which suggests that hearing loss affects up to ten percent of all Canadians yet only one in six people with hearing loss wear hearing aids. These statistics mean that around 80% of Canadians with some level of hearing impairment do not use hearing aids – an amazing number of people who are missing out on the opportunity to improve not only their hearing but also their overall quality of life.
Out of the adults dealing with some form of hearing impairment it is estimated that around 60% of them are men. So why should men suffer with this more than women? Well without wanting to enter an equality debate it could be argued that a higher percentage of men have “noisier” jobs and also they pursue louder hobbies - team, field sport, using power tools etc.
The better news, according to the Canadian Hearing Society’s chief audiologist, is that this type of hearing loss induced by noise is entirely preventable. The problems occur when small sensory cells within your ear become damaged due to exposure to continual loud noises. These cells are designed to transmit the information to your brain and unfortunately once damaged they cannot be repaired.
Turn down the volume
However, there are lots of ways to reduce your noise levels and therefore stop the damage from ever occurring. Loud music is probably one of the main causes of hearing loss in later life meaning that one of your more enjoyable pastimes can come back to haunt you in the future. The National Centre for Audiology’s Director, Prudence Allen, comments that this is the centre’s main area of concern for the future. She continues that the effect of music is cumulative so although the damage you may do going to concerts or listening to excessively loud music could appear temporary it can in fact become permanent.
Often the first sign of a loss is trouble hearing higher frequency levels making it harder to hear children and women’s voices. So if you have difficulty hearing a friend, partner or child and think they are constantly mumbling perhaps its time to get tested?
Here are some ways to minimize your risk of suffering a hearing impairment:
Gardening? If you are using the lawnmower, hedge trimmer or chain saw then get a pair of ear plugs in or use some earmuffs.
Home Improving? Again if you are using any power tools its worth protecting your ears so pop on the ear muffs or hunt out those ear plugs.
Sound systems and the TV – Try to keep noise levels at a reasonable level, you should be able to talk easily over the device and hear people well from around three feet away. Remember to be aware of volume levels coming from headphones and in the car and keep to the same, sensible guidelines.
Sports and leisure – If your hobbies could be putting your hearing at risk then act now. Do you go skeet shooting or ride a motorbike? You need to wear some form of protection if you do.
Other ways to decrease your everyday exposure to loud noises include wearing “active reduction” earphones; these are designed to reduce the levels of background noise you are constantly exposed to and ideal for places like the gym which normally have higher music volumes. Keep away from second hand smoke – we all know the damage that smoking can cause but there is now additional research that suggests that second hand smoke can possibly disrupt the flow of blood to the vessels in the ears causing problems.
Taking the first step to a better life
So you’ve taken the plunge and decided that its time for you to firstly get your hearing properly assessed or secondly now know that you are in a position to need some help with your hearing. But how will you pay for it? Surprisingly levels of provincial help vary widely across the country with some provinces offering far more than others. Your next stop should then be checking your health insurance – many policies offer some assistance in these circumstances so makes sure you read the small print. Whatever help you can source one thing is for sure, improving your quality of life and being able to live a fulfilling life needs to be a priority for us all. Advances in the development and design of hearing aids has led to them becoming increasingly discreet so stop asking people to repeat themselves and get yourself tested.
Thanks again to Melissa Hathaway for her excellent contribution to the Connect Hearing Canada Blog. If you have any questions please comment below and we will get right back to you.