Hearing loss affects millions of Canadians. Those affected range from infants born with some degree of loss to older Canadians. In fact, hearing loss is one of most prevalent chronic condition in older adults and a widespread disability that influences quality of life issues for those affected. Unmanaged hearing loss leads to social isolation, depression, and other cognitive disorders.
Strong evidence suggests that hearing aid devices and rehabilitation services improve the lives for those suffering from hearing loss. However, misinformation about hearing loss adds to the complexity of treatment. Common misperceptions about people with hearing loss need to be combated in order to create a successful environment for rehabilitation and treatment.
Common misperceptions about hearing loss 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.
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.
Hearing loss in Canada is widespread with up to 10% of the population experiencing some form of hearing loss. The ability to better understand, empathize, treat, and rehabilitate those with hearing loss requires an appreciation of the breadth of the problem, a clarification of the misperceptions surrounding hearing loss, and a commitment to be inclusive of those with hearing loss. The combination of these approaches can greatly improve the quality of life of all.