Facts and figures
Prevalence of hearing loss
- Nearly 1 out of every 4 adult Canadians reports having some hearing loss, although closer to 10% of people actually identify themselves as culturally Deaf, oral deaf, deafened, or hard of hearing. (CHS Awareness Survey 2002)
- 530,210 people in Ontario (4.74% of the population) are deaf or hard of hearing. (Canada Census 2006)
- Approximately 4 in 1,000 Canadian babies are born with some degree of hearing loss or will develop early progressive childhood hearing loss. (Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services, 2007).
- Hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic condition in older adults and the most widespread disability. Its prevalence rises with age – 46% of people aged 45 to 87 have hearing loss. (Cruickshanks et al. 1998)
- Aging is the number one cause of hearing loss and the incidence of hearing loss is poised to climb dramatically as our population ages. The number of older adults aged 65 and over in Ontario is projected to be 4.1 million, or 23.4%, by 2036.
- Canadians who identify themselves as culturally Deaf comprise more than 350,000 people across Canada. (Canadian Association of the Deaf, 2007)
- According to Statistics Canada, more than one million adults across the country reported having a hearing-related disability, a number more than 50% greater than the number of people reporting problems with their eyesight (StatsCan, 2002). Other studies indicate that the true number may reach three million or more Canadian adults, as those suffering from hearing problems often under-report their condition.
The impact of hearing loss on older adults
- With unmanaged hearing loss, older adults may become withdrawn and socially isolated which can lead to the breakdown of support networks and the risk of depression.
- Older adults with unmanaged hearing loss are at an increased risk of cognitive decline and developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. However, there is encouraging evidence that hearing assistance, such as a hearing aid, can improve the lives of even those with significant dementia.
- Research has revealed that there is a greater risk of falling with hearing loss, and the risk of falling increases with the severity of the hearing loss.
- 90% of people with hearing loss can improve communication with a properly fitted hearing aid, counselling or environmental changes.
Misperceptions about people with hearing loss
All culturally Deaf, oral deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people are good speechreaders.
FACT: Many factors are involved in the success of speechreading. People with hearing loss are not instinctively better speechreaders.
All culturally Deaf, oral deaf and deafened people know a signed language.
FACT: Culturally Deaf people know and use a signed language while only some deafened and hard of hearing people know and use a signed language. Many people with hearing loss do not know a signed language.
A person who can speak cannot be deaf.
FACT: Some deaf individuals have clear and modulated speech. This does not preclude them from having a hearing loss or being deaf.
There is one universal sign language.
FACT: There are over 100 signed languages in the world. They are as distinct from each other as the world’s spoken languages are distinct from one another.
Speech and language are the same thing.
FACT: There is a critical distinction between language and how we produce or articulate language. In spoken language, gestures of the vocal cords, the mouth, and the tongue, etc. are used to “produce” language. In signed language, gestures of the hands, the body, and face, etc. are used to “produce” language. Language itself is something of the mind (or the brain). It can be used to think about things, plan arguments, and even practice telling a joke, etc., without ever being articulated in speech or sign.
Deaf people are not sensitive to noise.
FACT: Some types of hearing loss actually accentuate sensitivity to noise. Loud sounds become garbled and uncomfortable. Hearing aid users often find loud noises, which are greatly magnified by their aids, to be very unpleasant.