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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.
© Daria Valkenburg
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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).