Hearing loss is much more common than many Canadians think.  Nearly 25 percent of adult Canadians have identified some form of hearing loss. While more than 50 percent of people over age 65 have hearing loss due to the aging process, it’s also estimated that 1 in 6 baby boomers have a hearing problem. With the swelling tide of the oldest baby boomers just starting to hit retirement age, hearing loss is bound to receive more attention in the future as society comes to grips with the impacts caused by this invisible disability. 

What about teenagers — are they damaging their hearing? One study showed a 31 percent overall rise in the prevalence of hearing loss in teens aged 12 to 19 from 1988–1994 compared to 2005–2006. The use of MP3s and other voluntary exposure to noise by young people is expected to increase rates of hearing loss considerably in coming years. For our very youngest citizens, it is estimated that 3 in 1,000 infants are born with serious-to-profound hearing loss.

The importance of starting now

People with hearing loss often feel embarrassed and isolated. They often try to bluff their way through situations and deny that there is a problem. 

Although there is overwhelming evidence that hearing aids can help, only 1 in 5 who need hearing aids use them. It has also been reported that individuals with hearing loss wait six to 10 years before they seek help, during which time the impact of hearing loss increases. 

How hearing loss occurs

The consequences of undiagnosed and unmanaged hearing loss are significant across the age spectrum. Research links untreated hearing loss to depression, isolation, and withdrawal. Damage to families and relationships can also be caused due to stress, anger, and fatigue from miscommunications. For youth, hearing loss can impact education, learning, and social development.

Hearing loss is largely attributed to two categories: age and noise. 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. NIHL is cumulative, permanent, and irreversible, but it’s also preventable.

What you can do

Whether your hearing loss is due to aging, noise, or something else, there is help. Once evaluated, hearing loss can often be managed with appropriate hearing aids, safety devices, education, and aural rehabilitation. Ninety percent of people with hearing loss can improve communication with properly fitted hearing aids and rehabilitative counseling. 

"If you have difficulty understanding speech or following a conversation in background noise, if sounds seem muffled, or you are suffering from tinnitus, you are probably experiencing hearing loss."

Although hearing aids are an imperfect solution to a complicated problem, significant leaps in technology have occurred over the past few years. Hearing aids are smaller and sound more natural than ever. They use directional microphones to adapt to your environment and reduce background noise. They also have mini internal computers that learn your listening preferences and interface with various Bluetooth accessories. 

If you have difficulty understanding speech or following a conversation in background noise, if sounds seem muffled, or you are suffering from tinnitus, you are probably experiencing hearing loss. Make an appointment with an audiologist to get your hearing checked, get advice on how to manage your hearing loss and how to prevent more from occurring. Whether you need a hearing aid, assistive listening device, tinnitus therapy, or strategies for communication, an audiologist can help you get reconnected to the world around you. 

Like any health condition, the key is early intervention. The sooner hearing loss is addressed, the better the outcome. As you read this campaign, you will learn all about your hearing and ways to get hearing help.