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Hard to hear: research listens to Canadians on hearing and communication during pandemic

Hard to hear: research listens to Canadians on hearing and communication during pandemic

Canada NewsWire

-- Survey unveils critical hearing and health issues exist behind the mask --

TORONTO, Nov. 25, 2020 /CNW/ - Recent research conducted by Leger (www.leger360.com) has unveiled compelling statistics on issues Canadians face regarding hearing and its impact on their health during the COVID-19 pandemic. On behalf of Helix Hearing Care (www.helixhearingcare.ca) and HearCanada (www.hearcanada.com) -- subsidiaries of Lifestyle Hearing Corporation -- the national study showed that pandemic social distancing and face mask-wearing are a problem for many Canadians and their hearing, and in fact, mask-wearing may identify untreated and unrecognized hearing loss. Fifty per cent of those without a diagnosed hearing loss agreed they have difficulty hearing and understanding what someone says when masked. While eight in ten (82 per cent) said they will wear hearing aids if, and when, their hearing declines, the question remains ­­– how many Canadians now realize they have hearing loss?

The effects of masks on speech and hearing

While vital to protect us from spread of infection, mask-wearing and social distancing both pose a serious challenge to speech intelligibility, given they muffle speech signals and restrict important visual cues including lip and facial movements. Accordingly, people with normal hearing or unperceived hearing loss might experience reduced hearing ability of about 30 per cent. Of those polled currently wearing aids, 76 per cent agreed they have difficulty hearing and understanding with masks. One quarter agreed they rely on mouth movements when listening with masks, and almost 30 per cent (27) polled have a hard time hearing what is said. More than half of those with aids agree (55 per cent) they rely on mouth movements to help understand conversations.

"Our research revealed issues experienced by Canadians across the country of all ages, exacerbated by the pandemic," explained Deb Zelisko, Ph.D., president and CEO, Lifestyle Hearing. "As an organization, we're committed to being proactive in the interest of our clients, the community and the country during this time.  It's our goal for hearing care professionals at our clinics to offer specialized solutions for the hearing impaired, who may only now realize they have a problem."

I can't hear you… the silent disability

Hearing loss is one of the leading causes of living with a disability and can lead to social and health consequences including depression, distress, social isolation, embarrassment, fatigue, increased injuries, a lower quality of life and mortality.

Pandemic distancing and mask-wearing seemingly exacerbate issues, with more than half (55 per cent) admitting they feel "depressed" about going back into lockdown, while 40 per cent said "isolation" is another fear. Twenty-four per cent feel isolated or depressed when they can't hear or understand through a mask. Those currently using hearing aids were significantly more likely to agree.

On point, the National Acoustics Lab, the world leader in hearing research and innovation (NAL, www.nal.gov.au) recently issued guidelines for adjustments to hearing aids for mask wearers during the pandemic.

Virtual care and telehealth: hearing at a distance, pandemic or not

The research also explored Canadians' awareness of virtual care via telehealth, noting the majority (two thirds, 65 per cent) were aware of telehealth, yet only one quarter have utilized it. Almost half (49 per cent) would likely access it in lockdown; but few (one quarter) were aware that hearing can be tested and managed via telehealth. Remarkably, only one quarter of those polled were aware one can both purchase, and program hearing aids via telehealth.

Patients may access easy and convenient remote service from the comfort and safety of home, via Lifestyle Hearing's umbrella telehearing care service. Coast to coast clinics offer consultation by highly trained and qualified clinicians for personal hearing care consultations, hearing screening and testing, product discussions, hearing aid fittings, programming and fine tuning -- as well as assessment, diagnostics and ongoing service care -- all done safely by telephone and an App.

"While the benefits of providing telehearing care during a pandemic are obvious, they're also far-reaching and lasting. We were able to quickly and successfully pivot from 80 clinics to 15 service hubs operating virtually, to make telehearing care available at the pandemic outset," continued Ms. Zelisko. "Our clinics were able to provide hearing tests, participate in consultations and product discussions, send new hearing aids by courier and program them to a client's needs – all from the client's home." She added, "Our teams also managed convenient and safe curbside pick-up for services like battery sales, minor repairs, hearing aid cleanings, and we worked with manufacturers to manage major repairs. Originally implemented for the convenience of those with mobility issues, those living in rural or remote communities, those traveling or those dealing with poor driving conditions during our Canadian winters, providing telehearing care during the pandemic allowed us to seamlessly meet the hearing care needs of our clients."

Additional statistics* indicate that hearing loss is one of the top five causes of years lived with a disability and it is estimated that 20 per cent of Canadians 55+ years have hearing loss, but only 7 per cent wear aids. Nineteen per cent (4.6 million) of Canadians have mild hearing loss in the speech frequency range (0.5, 1, 2 & 4 kHz) while only 4 per cent self-reported hearing impairment, even if hearing loss was suspected. There is an average delay of 7 or more years before seeking help, following a hearing loss diagnosis.

Perception is not reality

An individual must be aware of their hearing loss to move to the contemplation stage, then consider taking action such as consulting a professional. While statistics* indicated 30 per cent of Canadians aged 40 – 59 years had a measured hearing loss, only 4 per cent self-reported a loss. Seventy-five per cent aged 60 – 69 years had a measured loss, while only 7 per cent self-reported. Ninety-three per cent aged 70-79 years had a measured loss, while only 19 per cent self-reported a loss.

"This strongly suggests many are unaware and currently suffering, most likely exacerbated by mask-wearing, continued Ms. Zelisko. "Early identification and treatment can help prevent the development of social isolation, depression and other consequences of untreated hearing loss now and in the future."

Leger's research also identified existing stigmatization and denial surrounding hearing aids and their use. Forty-eight per cent polled agree or somewhat agree that "hearing aids are for old people, do not look fashionable, or feel sorry for people wearing hearing aids." Those under 55 years were significantly more likely to agree, and think they are too cool for hearing aids. While only 5 per cent of Canadians currently wear hearing aids -- not surprisingly, men and those aged 55+ were significantly more likely to say they wear aids.

Not your grandparents' hearing aids

Lifestyle Hearing's clinics offer an optimal experience for all ages, by delivering a superior standard of individualized, supportive care. Utilizing a medical model that involves audiology-based testing protocols, incorporating state-of-the-art equipment and technology through client assessment and personalized counseling, products are the most technologically advanced available and provide an unparalleled sound quality experience.

Recent product introductions include Styletto X, the award-winning stylish hearwear, Silk X, ultra-small, discreet ready-to wear hearing aids, and WIDEX MOMENT™ with ultra-fast Zero Delay™ Technology, resulting in a pure natural sound. In response to hearing issues experienced during the pandemic, Signia (www.signia-hearing.com) an international manufacturer of hearing aids recently introduced a new version of its App with Mask Mode. Compatible with all Bluetooth-equipped Signia Xperience devices, the feature enables wearers to better understand what people are saying and is available for the pandemic's duration.

"While we've pivoted to provide the very best in products and easy and accessible hearing care for Canadians across the country, our research indicates that many may still be living with their hearing loss in silence," explained Ms. Zelisko. "We want to encourage people at any age to have their hearing checked at the first signs of impairment or loss. Everyone can be safely, easily and effectively tested and treated, and should never have to struggle with a hearing loss, pandemic or not."

About Lifestyle Hearing Corporation

Lifestyle Hearing Corporation (LHC) is comprised of national hearing care clinics including 45 Helix Hearing Care (www.helixhearingcare.ca) locations, 13 HearCanada (www.hearcanada.com) clinics and an additional 17 self-named clinics. Head office is in Guelph, Ontario, which offers umbrella support for all clinics.

Leger Research Methodology: An online survey of 1514 Canadians was completed between September 25-27, 2020, using Leger's online panel. For comparison, a probability sample of 1514 respondents would have a margin of error of +/-2.5%, 19 times out of 20. Leger's online panel has approximately 400,000 members nationally and has a retention rate of 90 per cent. Stringent quality assurance measures allow Leger to achieve the high-quality standards set by the company. As a result, its methods of data collection and storage outperform the norms set by WAPOR (The World Association for Public Opinion Research). These measures are applied at every stage of the project: from data collection to processing, through to analysis. We aim to answer our clients' needs with honesty, total confidentiality, and integrity.

* Source: Statistics Canada https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-003-x/2015007/article/14206-eng.htm

Behind the mask:  Canadians finding it difficult to hear during pandemic

  -- National research conducted by Leger unveils critical hearing and health issues --

  • 5 per cent of Canadians currently wear hearing aids; most of them for five years or less
    • Men versus women, and those aged 55+ yrs. were significantly more likely to say they wear aids
    • 10 per cent of those aged 65+ say they wear hearing aids now
  • 8 in 10 (82 per cent) said they will wear hearing aids if/when they need them
    • Those aged 55+ and women significantly more likely to strongly agree
  • 30 per cent think hearing aids are "for old people"
    • One quarter (26 per cent) think they do not look fashionable
    • One quarter (24 per cent) feel sorry for people wearing hearing aids
    • Those under 55 yrs. significantly more likely to agree
  • 50 per cent of those polled (49 per cent among those who do not currently wearing hearing aids) agreed they have difficulty hearing and understanding what someone says when masked



  • 76 per cent who wear hearing aids agreed they have difficulty hearing and understanding what someone says when masked



  • One quarter agreed they rely on mouth movements when listening
    • With masks, almost 30 per cent polled have difficulty hearing and understanding what is said
  • More than half (55 per cent) of those with aids agree they rely on mouth movements to understand conversations



  •  55 per cent admitted they feel "depressed" about going back into lockdown
    • 40 per cent said "isolation" is another fear
    • 24 per cent feel isolated or depressed when they can't hear or understand through a mask; those using hearing aids were significantly more likely to agree
    • 20 per cent avoid socializing because of difficulty hearing and understanding when everyone is wearing masks
  • Two thirds (65 per cent) were aware of virtual health care through telehealth, yet only one quarter have utilized it during COVID-19
    • Almost half (49 per cent) would likely access it in future
    • One quarter were aware that hearing can be tested and managed via telehealth
    • One quarter were aware people can both purchase, and program hearing aids to meet their needs via telehealth

SOURCE Lifestyle Hearing Corporation



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