Studies show that as many as 1 in 5 Canadians need a hearing aid but don’t wear one. In an effort to raise awareness, the World Hearing Organization (WHO) celebrates World Hearing Day that takes place annually on March 3rd.
In honour of this day, we are excited to bust some myths and share information around hearing loss and Deaf culture which you may not have known. We encourage you to read the below and share with your friends and family. With so many Canadians experiencing some degree of hearing loss, it’s important to be open about this disability!
1. MYTH: “If I had a hearing loss, I would know.”
REALITY: Many Canadians are not aware they have issues with hearing. According to the 2012-2015 Canadian Heath Measures Survey, 77% of adults, 86% of youth, and 95% of children with at least a slight hearing loss were not aware they weren’t hearing properly.
2. MYTH: “Hearing loss is a sign of getting old.”
REALITY: While it’s true that hearing, like eyesight, does degrade as we age, hearing loss isn’t something that happens to just older people. The Canadian Health Measures Survey revealed 78% of adults aged 60-79 experience hearing loss, 40% of younger adults aged 40-59 had hearing loss in one or both ears.
3. MYTH: “I don’t need hearing aids because my hearing loss is only mild.”
REALITY: Hearing loss is progressive. The sooner it’s dealt with by using hearing aids, the better chance you have for your brain to retrain itself with interpreting sounds.
4. MYTH: “All Deaf people use American Sign Language (ASL).”
REALITY: There are hundreds of identified sign languages used around the world. Most of them are developed indigenously by Deaf people in their countries. For example, ASL and la Langue des Signes Quebecoise (LSQ) are national languages in Canada. There is also a regional dialect Maritimes Sign Language [MSL]! Communicating using sign language between dialects is as tricky as when using spoken language.
5. MYTH: “Sign language is a language of pictures and pantomime.”
REALITY: If this was true, then everybody would understand sign language. ASL, for example, is not a visual code for English, written or spoken. It has its own rules for grammar and phonology (the study of the patterns of sounds in a language).
6. MYTH: “All Deaf people benefit from Closed Captioning.”
REALITY: While many with hearing loss rely on Closed Captions while watching programs, many who were born Deaf prefer to have information related to them by sign language interpreters. ASL, for example, is a distinct language in its own right and is the first language for some who are Deaf. It is preferable to have both Closed Captioning and sign language interpreters.
7. MYTH: “If somebody doesn’t hear what you’re saying, speak louder.”
REALITY: When communicating with somebody who has a hearing loss, help them by speaking clearly and looking straight at them. It is insulting to a person’s intelligence to yell or over-enunciate your words. That being said, don’t speak at a rapid-fire pace, hold your hand in front of your mouth, or turn away during conversation. In the era of Covid-19, wearing a mask with a plastic cut-out around your mouth for lip-reading goes a long way to improving communication – for both the deaf and hearing. Studies have shown 40% of the English language is understood by lip-reading.
Ramage-Morin, P. Banks, R. Pineault, D. Atrach, M. (August 21, 2019). Unperceived hearing loss among Canadians aged 40 to 79. Statistics Canada. https://www.statcan.gc.ca
Banks, R. (June 7, 2018). Busting Myths about hearing loss. Canadian Hearing Services. https://chs.ca