Across Canada, hearing loss is emerging as a serious health issue, especially among our aging population. While close to 10% of the population recently reported some form of hearing loss, that percentage soars to close to 50% among adults over the age of 50. As our population ages, hearing loss emerges as a serious public health issue.
Adults with hearing loss are at greater risk of serious cognitive decline and even dementia. Without proper treatment, hearing loss initially leads to social isolation and depression. Other effects include less awareness of one’s environment, leading to an increased risk of falls and other problematic outcomes. However, there is evidence suggesting that proper application of hearing aid devices and rehabilitation services can greatly improve the quality of life for those millions of Canadian adults who suffer some form of hearing loss.
In addition to proper treatment and rehabilitation services, common misperceptions about people with hearing loss need to be combated. These include the misperception that deaf and hard-of-hearing persons are competent speech or lip readers. The ability to successfully speech-read depends on many factors and not all persons who suffer hearing loss can be expected to have the skill. Similarly, not all deaf persons know one of the many available sign languages. Adults who suffer from late onset of hearing loss may not have the special skills required to communicate as effectively as they had in the past. Friends, family, and co-workers need to be sensitive to these changing factors.
People with hearing loss or deafness may be able to speak clearly, but still have hearing loss. Conversely, someone who cannot speak at all is not deficient in their language skills. They can have complex thought and use language without speaking. Finally, even deaf persons can remain sensitive to noise. The loss of hearing does not mean that certain loud noises are not uncomfortable. An awareness of all of these factors contributes to a better quality of life for those adults suffering hearing loss.