Hearing allows us to connect to our world, communicate with our loved ones, thrive at work, succeed in school, and participate in our communities. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to hear well.

In Canada and the US, hearing loss affects over 48 million people. More people suffer from hearing loss than diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and autism combined, yet taking care of hearing health is not a priority for many.

Stigmas present a barrier to intervention

Hearing loss is an invisible disability — most people who suffer from it don’t realize they are experiencing a loss. On average, it takes seven years for someone with hearing loss to see an audiologist. Initial complaints typically come from family members who indicate that their loved one asks for frequent repetitions, listens to the TV at high volumes, has trouble following conversations, struggles in noisy environments, and removes him or herself from social situations.

The stigma that exists in our society about hearing loss and hearing aids is ubiquitous. Over 95 percent of people who suffer from a hearing loss could be helped with hearing aids and devices, yet less than 30 percent use them. Concerns about self-image, fear of being judged by our peers, and fear of aging are some of the most common reasons why people don’t use hearing aids.

A lack of provincial funding for hearing health care also contributes to this stigma. Currently, audiology services are not covered by the Canadian health care system and most insurance companies only provide minimal coverage.

The consequences of untreated hearing loss are detrimental to healthy living. It’s important to make audiology visits part of our health care routine to maintain a positive quality of life. We get an annual physical, take eye exams, and go for dental check-ups — likewise, we shouldn’t neglect our hearing.