March 11, 2020. In the November 2019 issue of ‘Canadian Audiologist’, the Issues In Accessibility column discussed the findings of a survey sent to audiology clinics across Canada, asking how accessible they were. The article, ‘Current Accessibility Strategies in Audiology Practice: A Review of the 2019 CAA Accessibility Survey Results’, was written by three audiologists: Janine Verge, Anne Griffin, and Dana Song.
I was interested in the article as encouraging hearing accessibility in public places is very important to me and one of the mandates of Hear PEI. You can read more about the efforts to change perceptions around hearing loss and increase hearing accessibility on PEI in the article, ‘Changing Perceptions on Hearing Loss on PEI… One Project at a Time‘ at https://canadianaudiologist.ca/issue/volume-7-issue-2-2020/column/acessibility-issues/.
Unfortunately, hearing accessibility is an issue that is NOT top of mind in the public perception. The Federal Government may have adopted the Accessible Canada Act, and the provinces of Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Ontario have provincial accessibility legislation, but nothing seems to have changed on Prince Edward Island. While there should, in theory, be more support to create accessible environments in Canada, it remains up to individuals to advocate for better hearing accessibility in public places.
Verge, Griffon, and Song begin their article with an excellent description of accessibility, describing it as “…about creating community, workplaces, and services that enable everyone to participate fully in society without barriers….” They go on to note that “Audiology clinics should serve as a model to the community that the onus of accessibility is not on the individual but is a responsibility of society to reduce barriers to support the full inclusion of people who are hard of hearing.”
If you’ve been to an audiology clinic, your experience is likely that of having your hearing tested and hearing aids fitted. Some clinics sell additional hearing assistive tools. On Prince Edward Island, a number of the clinics help get the word out on speech reading classes being offered, or our YouTube videos. We had hoped that by now at least one Island clinic would have an area with a hearing loop to demonstrate to clients, but as yet that has not happened.
The article’s authors explain the reasons for their view that clinics should be doing more. “Audiologists know that people who are hard of hearing face barriers at work, school, and in their community that hearing aids alone cannot fix. A fundamental service of our profession is to assist people with their hearing needs, and for our clinics to truly reflect this commitment, we must acknowledge that hearing accessibility in community life requires more than basic measurement of hearing in the booth and the fitting of appropriate personal technology.” In other words, they feel that a clinic should do more than sell hearing aids.
Some of the barriers faced by people with hearing loss in their everyday lives, that hearing aids or cochlear implants alone can’t overcome, include “poor acoustics, background noise, poor room lighting, blocked sound and/or line of sight.” I’d add that there still aren’t enough places with microphones in public venues, poor or missing signage, and general lack of awareness in knowing how to communicate effectively with people who have hearing loss. As well, there seems to be a lack of understanding that a person with hearing loss can also have multiple physical and health challenges, making the need for good communication a necessity.
To get a picture of how accessibility is being used in clinics within Canada, a 16 question online survey was sent to members of CAA (Canadian Academy of Audiology). Audiologists were asked “to identify the accessible technologies and services audiologists provide at their reception desk area, audiometric testing area, counseling and recommendation methods, outcome measures, website, workplace policies, and behaviours used during public presentations.” They were also asked for info on “barriers that affect their ability to provide accessible service.”
While the article doesn’t state how many surveys were sent out, the authors note that they received 33 completed surveys from Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. None were received from PEI.
From the results, the authors felt there was a “need for improved accessibility services for people who are hard of hearing in audiology clinics.” Various reasons were given by respondents on why additional accessibility services were not provided. The authors conclude by stating three main reasons to why “clinics should choose to make accessibility a top priority” and these reasons are:
- It is the right thing to do as it is the law and in the code of ethics.
- There are consequences for people who are hard of hearing that affects interpersonal communication and quality of life, and may lead to other conditions such as dementia, loneliness, and depression.
- Businesses and communities benefit both economically and by adopting age-friendly approaches to physical and social environments.
I found the article interesting and thought provoking. What do you think? (You can read the entire article yourself at https://www.canadianaudiologist.ca/issue/volume-6-issue-6-2019/mysteries-of-the-hearing-brain-feature-3/)
Are there services that you wish your audiologist would have? Where would you like to see more hearing accessibility in public places be offered? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also comment on this blog, or send a tweet to @HearPEI.
© Daria Valkenburg