Public Awareness Campaign on Hearing Loss

April 29, 2019.  A few months ago, audiologist Peter Benstead of PEI Audiology gave a presentation at one of our monthly meeting on two topics of interest:  an ongoing campaign for Public Awareness on Hearing loss, and a discussion on telecoils.

IMG_2322 Oct 30 2018 CHHA PEI meeting Peter Benstead

Audiologist Peter Benstead of PEI Audiology with Brenda Porter. (Photo credit: Annie Lee MacDonald)

Peter explained that the public awareness campaign was important as studies show that 3 million Canadians have hearing loss, but only 1 in 6 wear hearing aids.  Most people wait 7 to 11 years from the start of noticing they have hearing loss symptoms until they go for their first hearing assessment.    Indeed, Mike Smith, publisher of the County Line Courier, whose story was told in an earlier posting, told us that it took him 15 years! (See Do You Wish You Had Listened To Your Parents?)

With May designated as Speech and Hearing Month, Peter’s primary message is apt:  “Get your hearing checked regularly, especially if you, or anyone else, has noticed a change in your hearing function.

Early intervention of hearing impairment is a huge determining factor toward positive long-term hearing AND cognitive health” he explained.

Early intervention is important for several reasons, among them:

  • Hearing loss can worsen.
  • People tend to adapt to hearing aids more easily if they get them earlier.
  • Some studies show that untreated hearing impairment can affect your socioeconomic status.
  • Untreated hearing loss can lead to higher depression and anxiety rates.
  • Untreated hearing loss may increase the likelihood of dementia.

Adam Felman, an editor and writer for Medical News Today, had first-hand experience of the gradual effects of hearing loss… at the age of 29.  He wrote:Communication is a huge part of navigating this formative stageof one’s career, education, or family life.If any element of communication is lacking, it can have a significant impact on the way your personality develops, and the methods you use to connect with the outside world.

Felman wrote frankly about how risky socializing became for him. “The big kicker with gradual-onset hearing loss is that you are not aware of how it’s changing you until the physical symptoms have become moderate to severe.  Every pang of guilt or embarrassment after saying ‘what?’ or ‘huh?’ might lead to another night when you don’t risk going out to socialize. You end up distancing softly-spoken colleagues, friends, and even family members, simply because the effort it takes to process their speech can become draining.”  Sound familiar?

Felman reminded me of my mother when he went on to say that he used stock phrases as a coping mechanism.  My mother would always smile, nod, and say ‘yes, dear’ or ‘I’d like that’ in most conversations, even though she wasn’t sure what was being discussed.

After receiving his hearing aids, Felman noted that “even food comes alive with hearing aids” and described the joy of hearing a packet of potato chips being opened and hearing the crunch of food as it’s being chewed.  To his surprise, his balance and spatial awareness also improved.  He also described going to a concert where a hearing loop was in place.  “Using a hearing loop system for the first time at a concert was emotionally overwhelming.”  You can read the entire article at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324995.php

In the second part of his presentation, Peter Benstead gave an explanation of telecoils, which have been the subject of many blog postings since hearing loops were installed here on the Island in several venues last May.  (For the latest posting see Misconceptions About Telecoils). Peter noted that the first hearing aid with a telecoil was patented in 1938, and explained that a telecoil converts electromagnetic fields into sound.  It was initially used for improved telephone communications, providing better audio quality and no feedback.  As regular readers of this blog know, telecoil compatible phones are inexpensive and widely available today.  (See Sometimes Technology Advances Are Great)

Many people also have a Bluetooth program in their hearing aids for phone conversations, which allows them to connect with any Bluetooth-enabled electronic device.  You can have BOTH telecoil and Bluetooth programs in your hearing aid.  They are NOT the same, but complementary. They are often described as being like apples and oranges.

So what is the difference?  An article in Assist2Hear explains that “Both are wireless technologies, but Bluetooth is a short range signal that must be ‘paired’ with a phone or TV and typically requires an intermediate device to interpret the Bluetooth signal and convert it to a signal the hearing aid can accept and transmit. A loop has no range limit – one just needs to be ‘in the loop’ area, as opposed to the short range Bluetooth signal.  Loops do not require any intermediate devices since the signal is sent directly to the t-coil in the hearing aid.”  (You can read the whole article at https://assist2hear.com/ufaqs/loop-differ-bluetooth/)

Hearing through a telecoil in venues with an audio loop system gives a clarity of sound that is unbelievable.  As Peter explained, it provides:

  • Direct to ear sound
  • Removes the distance between the listener and the source of the sound.
  • A great improvement in sound quality.

Peter advises that your audiologist or hearing aid dispenser can let you know if your hearing aid has a telecoil and if it is activated.

Our thanks to Peter Benstead of PEI Audiology for taking the time to give his presentation at a recent meeting, and for answering all the questions he was asked.

A reminder that our petition requesting the PEI government to: Supplement the cost of hearing aids for seniors by extending the AccessAbility Supports Program to include all adults, not just those up to age 65, or devise a similar program is ongoing.  (See Petition Update For Week 2)  If you haven’t signed the petition, please do so.  And if you would like to help circulate the petition amongst your family and friends, at work, or an organization you belong to, please let us know.  A big thank you to Seniors Active Living Centre, located at UPEI in Charlottetown, for letting us know the petition is available in their centre!

We all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.  Your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed.  If you think our outreach and educational activities have made a difference, please let us know. Your letters of support make a BIG difference when we try to encourage hearing accessibility. It tells others that we are not a lone voice in the wilderness.  Please share your ideas and stories by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

Upcoming event in a venue equipped with a hearing loop gives you a chance to experience the clarity of sound heard through a hearing loop. CONCERT:  Phase II & Friends Concert – Here Comes Summer at West River United Church in Cornwall, May 5, 2019 at 7 pm  Fundraiser for the church.  Advance tickets may be obtained after church on April 21st and 28th, or by contacting the Church office at 902-566-4052. Tickets are $10.

Upcoming fundraising ceilidh offered by Bonshaw Hall on Sunday, May 26, 2019, from 2 to 4 pm.  The organizers are generously sharing their proceeds with us, to help in our non-project related activities. We hope you come out and enjoy the show, while helping us at the same time.  Can’t attend?  You can donate directly to us or through our Canada Helps page at:  https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/34708.

May Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, May 28, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church.

 

Advertisements

Petition Update For Week 2

April 27, 2019.  In a previous blog posting, the petition launched to request equal treatment for all adult Islanders with regard to hearing aid subsidies was discussed.  (See Petition Launched To Request Equal Treatment For Adult Islanders Re Access To Hearing Aid Subsidies) Briefly, the petition requests the following: Supplement the cost of hearing aids for seniors by extending the AccessAbility Supports Program to include all adults, not just those up to age 65, or devise a similar program.  

A number of people have requested blank petitions to circulate.  For example, Ruth Walsh of Crapaud, and Evelyn Stewart of Breadalbane, are two of the volunteers.  They don’t have hearing loss themselves, but support the petition as hearing loss affects so many of their friends.

CIMG2955 Apr 25 2018 Evelyn Stewart & Ruth Walsh with petitions

Ruth Walsh of Crapaud, left, and Evelyn Stewart of Breadalbane, right, invite you to sign the petition they are helping to circulate. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Want to sign the petition?  Besides Ruth and Evelyn, several individuals have petitions that are being circulated.

CIMG2949 Apr 24 2018 Daria & Marion Toole with petitions

Marion Toole of Bonshaw, right, presents signed sheets to Daria Valkenburg. Marion invites you to sign the petition she is circulating. She and the petition will be at Bonshaw Hall for the Bonshaw Ceilidh on Sunday afternoon, April 28. (Photo credit: Annie Lee MacDonald)

The petition is also available at the:

  • three PEI Council of People With Disabilities offices: Charlottetown, Summerside, and Montague.
  • office of ENT specialist Dr. Kristian MacDonald in Charlottetown, who wrote to say “this is important”. Indeed it certainly is.
  • South Shore Actiplex in Crapaud.
CIMG2946 Apr 24 2018 PEICOPD Marylynn Gallant Marcia Carroll & Annie Lee MacDonald

Marylynn Gallant (left) and Marcia Carroll (centre) of the PEI Council of People With Disabilities office in Charlottetown, and Annie Lee MacDonald (right) of Hear PEI hold up a blank petition. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

To date, in Week 2, sheets of signed petitions have been returned as follows:

Petition Apr 27 2019

our-goal-blog

All of us can identify a family member or friend whose life is restricted because of their hearing loss. So we ask you to support the petition and help us reach our goal of a minimum of 2,500 signatures. We welcome not only your signature, but also your letters of support. Updates will be posted on this blog and on Twitter (@HearPEI).

We all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.  Your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed.  If you think our outreach and educational activities have made a difference, please let us know. Your letters of support make a BIG difference when we try to encourage hearing accessibility. It tells others that we are not a lone voice in the wilderness.  Please share your ideas and stories by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

Upcoming event in a venue equipped with a hearing loop gives you a chance to experience the clarity of sound heard through a hearing loop. CONCERT:  Phase II & Friends Concert – Here Comes Summer at West River United Church in Cornwall, May 5, 2019 at 7 pm  Fundraiser for the church.  Advance tickets may be obtained after church on April 21st and 28th, or by contacting the Church office at 902-566-4052. Tickets are $10.

Upcoming fundraising ceilidh offered by Bonshaw Hall on Sunday, May 26, 2019, from 2 to 4 pm.  The organizers are generously sharing their proceeds with us, to help in our non-project related activities. We hope you come out and enjoy the show, while helping us at the same time.  Can’t attend?  You can donate directly to us or through our Canada Helps page at:  https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/34708.

 

 

Travelling With An Invisible Disability

April 25, 2019.  A while ago, a woman with a cochlear implant who was travelling alone booked a flight and informed the airline that she had hearing loss.  When she arrived at the airport, she was placed in a wheelchair.  She protested, saying “I’m able bodied and can walk perfectly.  Why do I have to be in a wheelchair?”  The reply?  “Madam, you informed us you have a disability.  We realize you can walk, but the wheelchair is the only way the airline staff will know this. Please sit in the chair.”  She did, an attendant wheeled her to the gate and then onto the plane, and she arrived safely at her destination.

The problem, as you may imagine, is that she had an invisible disability.  The wheelchair didn’t help her to hear and anyone seeing her would assume she had a physical disability.  Heathrow Airport in England has taken steps to recognize the importance of recognizing invisible or hidden disabilities while travelling in the airport.  The solution?  A sunflower lanyard.  A spokesperson explained that “The sunflower lanyard is a way for customers to indicate to staff across the airport that they may need additional care and support.  The optional service is intended for customers with hidden disabilities such as hearing loss, autism or dementia.”  (See https://www.hearinglink.org/news/201808/heathrow-introduces-hidden-disability-lanyards/#lightbox/0/)

sunflower-lanyard

The sunflower lanyard is already available at several airports throughout the United Kingdom, making for a consistent approach.  So, what do you have to do?  It couldn’t be simpler.  Contact the airport if you will be travelling through Heathrow and they will mail you a lanyard ….. anywhere in the world.  So, Islanders, if you are planning a trip and will be going through Heathrow, and you have hearing loss, contact the airport by email at special_assistance@heathrow.com and provide the following information:

  • Full name (including surnames)
  • Departing / Connecting or Arriving terminal
  • Flight number(s)
  • Postal address where your lanyard should be sent to
  • Number of lanyards required

The lanyard is free of charge and you can keep it to use at any participating airport.  (See https://www.heathrow.com/airport-guide/assistance-at-heathrow/hidden-disabilities)  As the airport authority explains, “Wearing a sunflower lanyard at Heathrow enables our colleagues to recognise that you have a hidden disability without you needing to declare it. This allows you to travel independently through the airport whilst knowing that if you need any additional support during your journey, any of our colleagues will be able to support.” Now, wouldn’t such a lanyard be a great idea for our Charlottetown Airport Authority to adopt?  If you like this idea, let us know.  You can comment on the blog, send an email to hearpei@gmail.com or a tweet to @HearPEI.

Petition Update

In the last blog posting the petition launched to request equal treatment for all adult Islanders with regard to hearing aid subsidies was discussed.  (See Petition Launched To Request Equal Treatment For Adult Islanders Re Access To Hearing Aid Subsidies) Briefly, our petition requests the following: Supplement the cost of hearing aids for seniors by extending the AccessAbility Supports Program to include all adults, not just those up to age 65, or devise a similar programResults for the first week of the petition are encouraging, and will be discussed in a separate posting. The results are updated on Twitter as they come in, and you can follow us @HearPEI.  As of April 25, 2019, here is the progress.

Petition Apr 25 2019 pm

our-goal-blogWe all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.  Your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed.  If you think our outreach and educational activities have made a difference, please let us know. Your letters of support make a BIG difference when we try to encourage hearing accessibility. It tells others that we are not a lone voice in the wilderness.  Please share your ideas and stories by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

Upcoming event in a venue equipped with a hearing loop gives you a chance to experience the clarity of sound heard through a hearing loop. CONCERT:  Phase II & Friends Concert – Here Comes Summer at West River United Church in Cornwall, May 5, 2019 at 7 pm  Fundraiser for the church.  Advance tickets may be obtained after church on April 21st and 28th, or by contacting the Church office at 902-566-4052. Tickets are $10.

Upcoming fundraising ceilidh offered by Bonshaw Hall on Sunday, May 26, 2019, from 2 to 4 pm.  The organizers are generously sharing their proceeds with us, to help in our non-project related activities. We hope you come out and enjoy the show, while helping us at the same time.  Can’t attend?  You can donate directly to us or through our Canada Helps page at:  https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/34708.

Petition Launched To Request Equal Treatment For Adult Islanders Re Access To Hearing Aid Subsidies

April 20, 2019. After a recent posting about the challenges faced by Island seniors in trying to access hearing aid subsidies, only to discover that a program available to adults under 65 is not applicable to them, a lot of interesting and heartwarming things happened. (See Should The Cost of Hearing Aids For Islanders Over 65 Be Supplemented The Same As For Those Under 65?)

In a letter to the party leaders running in the PEI election, the solution proposed was a simple adjustment to a currently existing program that will help Island seniors with hearing loss stay independent.  Supplement the cost of hearing aids for seniors by extending the AccessAbility Supports Program to include all adults, not just those up to age 65, or devise a similar program.

We asked blog readers from the island, members of PEI’s hearing loss group, and various organizations if they would consider writing a letter of support for this proposed solution.  A number did.  In addition, letters of support have been received to date from:

  • Seniors Active Living Centre
  • PEI Women’s Institute
  • PEI Council of People With Disabilities

Two of the four political parties responded in a positive manner, as did several of the candidates running in the election.

This encouraging support led to a complementary initiative that began a few days ago, a petition to be presented in the legislature later this year, during an upcoming sitting of the new PEI government, asking for the same solution:   Supplement the cost of hearing aids for seniors by extending the AccessAbility Supports Program to include all adults, not just those up to age 65, or devise a similar program.

Our goal: a minimum of 2,500 signatures.   When we received the blank petitions from the printer, we noticed an extra sheet.  The employees at the printing shop had signed the petition!  What a great start!

Annie Lee MacDonald and I took a petition into a nearby restaurant to look over the printing job.  The staff and several customers asked what the petition was about, and everyone wanted to sign it.  The cook even came out of the kitchen.  We didn’t have enough room on the sheet and had to get more petitions from the car!

At a recent Women’s Institute branch meeting, all members present signed the petition.

This enthusiasm has been wonderful.  At our hearing loss meeting this week, everyone signed and took copies to do their own campaigning in getting signatures.

At the local pharmacy, the staff and pharmacists signed.  The same thing happened at the dentist’s office.  My husband had to see a specialist for a surgical procedure and the young doctor not only signed the petition, but thanked us for the initiative as he “had many patients who had hearing loss but couldn’t afford hearing aids“.

The PEI Council of People With Disabilities met a few days ago and decided to have the petition available in all of their offices.  You can drop into their offices in Charlottetown, Summerside, or Montague and ask to sign the petition.  The Council issued a challenge to take the petition out to churches and public gatherings.

Several friends offered to circulate the petition – and none have hearing loss themselves.  When my husband had the snow tires on our car exchanged for summer tires, he noticed the petition on the back seat and mentioned it to the mechanic.  He ended up filling the sheet as more people heard the discussion and agreed it was a cause worth supporting.

our-goal-blog

All of us can identify a family member or friend whose life is restricted because of their hearing loss. So we ask you to support the petition and help us reach our goal of a minimum of 2,500 signatures.  In addition to the offices of the PEI Council of People With Disabilities, a number of volunteers in the communities across the island are out there asking for your signature.  We welcome not only your signature, but also your letters of support.

We all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.  Your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed for the provincial election and the upcoming federal election.  If you think our outreach and educational activities have made a difference, please let us know. Your letters of support make a BIG difference when we try to encourage hearing accessibility. It tells others that we are not a lone voice in the wilderness.  Please share your ideas and stories by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

 UPCOMING EVENTS

Upcoming event in a venue equipped with a hearing loop gives you a chance to experience the clarity of sound heard through a hearing loop. CONCERT:  Phase II & Friends Concert – Here Comes Summer at West River United Church in Cornwall, May 5, 2019 at 7 pm  Fundraiser for the church.  Advance tickets may be obtained after church on April 21st and 28th, or by contacting the Church office at 902-566-4052. Tickets are $10.

Upcoming fundraising ceilidh offered by Bonshaw Hall on Sunday, May 26, 2019, from 2 to 4 pm.  The organizers are generously sharing their proceeds with us, to help in our non-project related activities. We hope you come out and enjoy the show, while helping us at the same time.  Can’t attend?  You can donate directly to us or through our Canada Helps page at:  https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/34708.

Misconceptions About Telecoils

April 15, 2019.  After reading a recent blog posting about questions to ask during a needs assessment for a hearing loop (See 8 Questions To Ask When Doing A Needs Assessment For A Hearing Loop Installation), one church followed the steps and a representative was kind enough to give us a follow-up on the results…..  “We actually used many of your questions in a bulletin insert to gather information about issues related to sound. Thank you for sharing. We asked – in our survey – if you wear a hearing aid, does it have a t-coil? and none had heard that term. Also, it’s possible people under-reported problems as they would know correcting them would be costly and finances are at a low level.

It’s a sad question, in a way, as t-coils (also called telecoils) are not new.  Basically, a telecoil is a receiver that picks up signals from a hearing loop, which is an electromagnetic field.  Hearing aids or cochlear implants with an activated telecoil can convert this electromagnetic field into a sound signal.  If you want to hear the difference in sound quality, see The Sound Through A Hearing Loop.

What do I mean by an activated telecoil?  Think of your TV and pretend it is your hearing aid.  If you want to watch a specific program on TV what do you do?  You change the channel to the one broadcasting your program, ie. you have activated that particular channel.   A hearing aid can come with a number of ‘channels’, called programs, and one of these is the telecoil.  A telecoil is about the size of a grain of rice, so it is not large.

The second question the church representative said was asked by parishioners was:  “Can a Bluetooth hearing aid be used with a hearing loop? Two, who identified themselves as hearing aid users, wanted to be sure a system was not put in place that would interfere with their new Bluetooth aids.

Bluetooth is another program that is available in a hearing aid, as is a tinnitus masking program, among others.  Just as you can get more than one channel on your TV, you can get more than one program in your hearing aids.  So the answer is no, a telecoil program will not interfere with a Bluetooth program.  They are complementary programs with very different functions.  For more information, here is a link to an article written by American audiologist Juliette Sterkens: https://loopwisconsin.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/ready-to-buy-a-new-hearing-aid-be-sure-it-includes-bluetooth-and-telecoil-technology/.

Sometimes, rather than including a telecoil in a hearing aid itself, it’s included in the ‘streamers’ that come with a hearing aid.  A streamer is designed to pick up audio signals, turning a hearing aid into a wireless headset.  It’s worn around the neck and has buttons for phone, TV, and microphone applications.

A recent article by Steve Frazier outlined his frustration with audiologists who don’t give information useful to people with hearing aids…. “When I needed assistance hearing in large venues where my hearing aid microphones were simply not able to do the job, my hearing care provider at the time offered no options other than, ‘Sit close to the loudspeakers’. I wasn’t told that there were little copper coils in my hearing aids that, when activated, turn my hearing aids into a substitute headset. He didn’t say, ‘Ask if the hall is looped’, which would mean all I had to do was take a seat, touch the ‘t-switch’ on my hearing aids, and connect wirelessly to the microphone being used by the speaker. Such a ‘loop’ broadcasts a silent electromagnetic signal that the telecoils in my hearing aids pick up much like a radio picks up the signal broadcast by a radio station.  Why wasn’t I told about telecoils? That’s a question asked by too many hearing aid wearers upon first learning about the technology.

He goes on to explain that in the USA, six states have passed laws “requiring that clients be counseled on the technology prior to being fitted with hearing aids” and more states are in various stages of passing similar laws.  Some audiologists and dispensers are opposing these changes because “They want to be able to make decisions for the client rather than give the client options and let him or her make an informed decision.”  Scary, isn’t it?  To read the whole article, see https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/expanded-communication-access-why-wasnt-i-told-steve-frazier

If you have hearing loss, it’s up to YOU to educate yourself on the accessibility tools available to you, so that you can ask the right questions when you go to your audiologist or specialist.  Hearing loops are available on the island and there is no reason why more places can’t have this hearing accessibility support if users of the various venues lobby for them.

We all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.  Your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed for the provincial election and the upcoming federal election.  If you think our outreach and educational activities have made a difference, please let us know. Your letters of support make a BIG difference when we try to encourage hearing accessibility. It tells others that we are not a lone voice in the wilderness.  Please share your ideas and stories by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

 UPCOMING EVENT

April Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Guest speaker will be Lisa Gallant, pharmacist and owner of South Shore Pharmacy, who will talk about ototoxic drugs (drugs that affect your hearing).

Should The Cost of Hearing Aids For Islanders Over 65 Be Supplemented The Same As For Those Under 65?

April 3, 2019.  On April 23, the residents of PEI will be heading to the polls for a provincial election.  As a non-profit volunteer organization, we do our best to improve awareness of issues regarding hearing loss and hearing prevention. The more information we can provide on hearing accessibility tools and programs on behalf of those with hearing loss, the better quality of life for everyone.  In this election, an issue affecting Island seniors with hearing loss is increasingly becoming a priority.

You may be wondering why hearing loss is an issue.  If you’re one of the political candidates running for election, you may be asking why you should pay attention to a small volunteer organization.  Will listening translate into votes?  Here’s why.  Per Statistics Canada: Hearing loss is an important health concern which is often unrecognized and under-treated. Hearing loss can have many emotional and social consequences including social isolation, depression, safety issues, mobility limitations and reduced income and employment opportunities.’

Audiometry results from the 2012 and 2013 Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) indicate that 47% of adults aged 60 to 79 years had hearing loss. That’s almost half of our senior population!  The percentage of the population with hearing loss is increasing.  While not seniors yet, a recent report noted that 20% (1 in 5!) of military members have hearing loss, which will only be accelerated as they become seniors themselves.

Of the three most common chronic conditions in Canada, arthritis is #1, hypertension (high blood pressure) is #2, and hearing loss is #3.  Hearing loss is a chronic condition that can lead to more serious issues and health problems if hearing accessibility tools are not available and affordable.

Hearing aids can cost about $3,000, per ear, depending on the level of hearing loss and the technology in the device.  If you need two, you can be looking at $6,000!  This isn’t a one-time purchase, either.  As hearing deteriorates, a hearing aid needs to be changed.  In this way, it is similar to vision care, except with a higher price tag.  Whether you pay for your hearing aids up front, or finance them, much like you would finance the purchase of a car, it’s still a lot of money.  If you’re a senior living on a fixed income, it can be difficult to afford.

One Island couple explained that both needed hearing aids in both ears.  They decided that each would get one hearing aid as they couldn’t afford to purchase what was needed for both!

PEI is not alone.  A recent article in the Globe and Mail described situations across Canada, including some provincial solutions: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/article-hearing-loss-leaves-many-struggling-with-costs-amid-subsidy-shortage/.  Sadly, as the article explains, “Quebec is the only province that provides full coverage for hearing aids as part of its provincial health plan.

Here’s the problem on PEI….. Under current provincial policies, the AccessAbility Supports Program (formerly called Disability Support Program) is available for adults UNDER 65, who require help in supplementing the cost of hearing aids.  Once a person turns 65, the Disability Support Program is no longer available.  Unlike the AccessAbility Supports Program, the application process for seniors is basically the same procedure as applying for social assistance.

In the 2015 election, when this was brought up with the government, the Premier consulted with his Department and informed our organization’s President that there was a program in place that would address the needs of those who required hearing aids but didn’t have the resources to purchase them.  Unfortunately, this was not correct.  Several members tested the process and were left humiliated and embarrassed by the application process.

In one case, a woman was asked how much money she and her husband had in the bank. She said $1,200.00. Like responsible people, she said they liked to have a little bit of funds in reserve in case one of them died. She was told she didn’t qualify because they had too much money.  This appears to be age discrimination.  Shouldn’t every Island adult have the same access to help in supplementing the cost of hearing aids?

The solution proposed is one simple adjustment to a currently existing program that will help Island seniors with hearing loss stay independent.  Supplement the cost of hearing aids for seniors by extending the AccessAbility Supports Program to include all adults, not just those up to age 65.

Seniors have contributed to the community and society over their lifetime. Hearing loss causes people to withdraw from the social interaction. Loneliness can lead to depression and a host of other health issues, including, according to recent studies, dementia.

All of us can identify a family member or friend whose life is restricted because of their hearing loss. If you agree that the same help given to Island adults should be extended to seniors, please talk to the candidates coming to your door, and consider sending a letter of support. The more support received from organizations and individual citizens, the more the possibility of change in the current provincial policy. Some of you may wish to also send your letter of support to the leaders of the various political parties or the candidate in your area. Please feel free to do so, but also please send a copy of your letter to hearpei@gmail.com.

We all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.  Your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed for the provincial election and the upcoming federal election.  If you think our outreach and educational activities have made a difference, please let us know. Your letters of support make a BIG difference when we try to encourage hearing accessibility. It tells others that we are not a lone voice in the wilderness.  Please share your ideas and stories by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

Upcoming event in a venue equipped with a hearing loop gives you a chance to experience the clarity of sound heard through a hearing loop. CONCERT:  The Ross Family Concert at Shore Shore United Church in Tryon, April 7, at 2:30 pm. Sharing a blend of Acadian and Scottish, this high-energy trio offers an afternoon of entertainment sure to raise your spirits. Auction viewing and bidding begins at 1:45 pm. Advance Tickets $12, at the door $15. For tickets call Bev 439-2352 or Cindy 658-2863.

Spring session of Level 1 Speech reading classes begin Wednesday, April 10, 2019, and run for 10 weeks.  Two sessions are offered with speech reading instructor Nancy MacPhee: a day class 1-3 pm, and an evening class 7-9 pm. Level 1 covers information to help people better understand hearing loss. Focus is on the most visible consonant shapes of speech.  There are many exercises and class interaction to work on improving your awareness and ability to interpret.  Speech reading takes lots of patience and practice! But don’t worry.  As Nancy says, “We also try to have some fun!” Email hearpei@gmail.com for more information or to register.

Interested in Level 2 Speech reading?  The spring class is completely full.  If you want to add your name for the next session, and you’ve taken Level 1, please send us an email.

April Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Guest speaker will be Lisa Gallant, pharmacist and owner of South Shore Pharmacy, who will talk about ototoxic drugs (drugs that affect your hearing).