The country is dealing with a rise in hearing issues as the population ages and more young people come to clinics with noise-related hearing problems, according to the Hearing Health Alliance of Canada.
Earlier this month, the alliance urged Ottawa to develop a national hearing health strategy as it believes “Canada is on the cusp of a potential public health crisis.”
And local hearing centres in Winnipeg have noted an increase in younger patients and the average age for people to need hearing aids is 60.
“We are definitely seeing a lot more people in their 40s, in their 50s treating hearing loss, even if it is mild,” said Candice Holden, hearing instrument specialist with Polo Park Hearing Centre.
Holden said preventative measures are key and it’s never too early for people to get their hearing checked.
“We like to tell people that all the time, even if it’s just a baseline to see where we are. We do our teeth, we do our eyes since we’re children. So we should really be keeping on top of that with our ears, too.”
Winnipeg Audiologist Christine Dino said people tend to either deny or put off getting their hearing tested due to the stigma of wearing hearing aids, but that’s changing as technology advances.
“With the latest advancements in technologies, hearing aids now are very small. They’re computers. We can have Bluetooth on it to connect to your cellphone.”
“So more and more people are actually excited now about having hearing aids and having that new technology to use and benefit from.”
Another issue is the price of hearing aids. Some people simply cannot afford to get them, but the province recently announced a $12.6-million program which will help cover the cost of testing, fitting and purchasing new hearing aids
The program will offer grants of up to $2,000 to Manitobans 65 years of age and over with a family income below $80,000 in the previous year.
The program will begin accepting applications later this spring, the government said.
“Hearing aids provide valuable benefits to improve quality of life in a number of important ways such as fully participating with family, friends and co-workers, while also avoiding the isolation that can be associated with hearing loss,” Seniors and Long-term Care Minister Scott Johnston said in a release
Dino said people can work to protect their ears by listening to music at or below 50 per cent and making sure to protect their ears when around anything really loud.
“With earbuds and stereos and loud music and concerts, that can definitely cause some hearing loss for people. So I always tell people to enjoy that longer, turn it down,” Dino said.
“In the long term, we will see permanent hearing loss and then when you have hearing loss, you won’t be able to enjoy your music. So the key to enjoy your music longer is turn it down so it can have a lifetime of musical enjoyment”
Dino said checking your ears shouldn’t go on the back burner as catching hearing loss can help delay the onset of dementia and prevent poor balance and social isolation.
“They’ve done studies where they’ve seen the brain does shrink faster for people with untreated hearing loss,” Dino said.
“So hearing aids cannot cure dementia, but we can definitely delay the onset of it. So if we can delay it instead of, you know, at 85 people get it at 90 or above, that would be huge.”
Dino said once people are over 18 they don’t notice or pay attention to hearing issues.
“I like to tell people of all ages, anytime there’s a concern, definitely see the doctor, it could be something as simple as earwax or it could be something more than that,” Dino said.
“People just kind of forget about it, they avoid it, they don’t want to have anything to do about it and we just want people to know, don’t be scared of getting your ears checked.”
— with files from Global’s Rosanna Hempel and Shane Gibson