Noise has become a major part of today’s technology-driven lifestyles. We are besieged by loud noises, which present an ongoing risk of damaging our hearing. Exposure to loud noises occurs all around us — in the workplace, in social and recreational settings and at home. From sporting events, concert venues, movie theatres, personal music devices, and power tools, to music devices, televisions and even kitchen appliances. In Canada, the number of adults with some degree of hearing loss or deafness may be reaching up to three million individuals, and even a slight hearing loss can have an adverse effect on quality of one’s life, from the way we work, to the way we socialize.
The Canadian Hearing Instrument Practitioners Society (CHIPS) is the national professional organization for hearing instrument practitioners who provide hearing healthcare services for hard of hearing people in Canada. According to the organization, Canadians are exposed to dangerous sound levels on a regular basis, which put strain on the senses and can result in hearing loss; and noise-induced hearing loss is a growing issue, especially with younger Canadians.
The Canadian Business Journal spoke with Leslie Holden, President, and Daniel Tessier, Director, about the often-self-induced noise pollution that slowly damages a person’s ability to hear, how Canadians can protect themselves from noise pollution, and the Society’s mandate to educate Canadians on how to protect their hearing.
“Hearing loss is a common health problem. Yes, it often develops with age, but we are seeing an increase in hearing loss caused by continuous or repeated exposure to loud noises. Younger ears are particularly susceptible to loud noise and are more vulnerable to subsequent hearing loss,” says Holden. “And while noise is one of the greatest threats to hearing, it is also a preventable one, as it is largely within one’s control. It is therefore important for people to recognize noise hazards and take the simple and easy steps to protect their hearing.”
CHIPS continues to expand its consumer awareness outreach with regular campaigns and, according to Holden, the Society has tremendous success working with businesses most of which are interested in protecting their employees and involve in their employees’ overall well-being, as hearing impairment in the workplace may place individuals in dangerous situations on an ongoing basis. And, as the voice of the industry, the Society is also developing and growing its advocacy and relationships with the government bodies, and representing the issues as they relate to the Society, and supporting provincial issues that affect hearing practitioners across the country.
When it comes to consumer awareness, the month of May is CHIPS’s Better Hearing Awareness Month. The campaign’s goal is to remind Canadians that hearing is a gift that must be consciously protected. “Our mission puts emphasis and focus on consumer awareness, promoting safe practices when it comes to hearing, and having one’s hearing checked regularly. We simply want to remind Canadians to protect their hearing, and encourage them to undertake the hearing tests. In many cases, basic hearing screening may be provided free of charge,” says Tessier.
Recognizing the symptoms of hearing loss takes time, and the decrease in hearing often goes unnoticed. Due to the bias of considering hearing loss a minor inconvenience, it is also not uncommon for people to delay medical care, treating hearing loss as something that can be ignored, and with the solution being at one’s fingertips — simply increasing the volume of the devices.
According to CHIPS Canada, besides regular checkups, the risk of noise-induced hearing loss can be lowered by very simple, common sense practices: lower the volume of devices, limit the duration and volume when using headphones, use ear protection equipment such as earmuffs or earplugs in a noisy environment, use ear protection at concerts and sporting events; insist on the use of ear protection for children/youth; teach your children the value of hearing and how loud noises can harm their ability to hear, and Be Hear Smart – have your hearing checked on a regular basis.
“Some of the research that’s currently underway in the medical society into hearing loss focuses on finding links between hearing loss, Dementia and Alzheimer’s. With hearing loss comes lack of understanding of what’s happening around the individual, and this slowly isolates the person and may be having an impact on development of Dementia and Alzheimer’s. There is also an element of denial, and misunderstanding due to hearing loss. We encourage people to bring loved ones to accompany people during screening, so they get the whole story and that the information does not get lost because of the patient’s hearing loss,” explains Holden.
“If a person suffers from hearing loss, the good news is that most can be successfully addressed with the latest advances in hearing aid technology, so it’s truly unnecessary to let hearing loss get in the way of quality of life. When people can hear better in their working environment, in their social life, interact in social situations and other aspects of their life, they also improve the quality of their life,” concludes Holden.