Recognizing World Hearing Day

This blog post has been reviewed and approved by a hearing care professional.

As we celebrate another World Hearing Day on March 3, there are signs that years of effort by the World Health Organization (WHO) and others to draw attention to the importance of hearing care may be starting to pay off. And the timing couldn’t be better, because certain risks to good hearing remain all around us.


This year, the WHO is emphasizing the importance of coordinating hearing care with primary care to make it easier for those with hearing loss to get the help they need. Easier care should lead to more care.


That same spirit underpins efforts worldwide to make hearing technology more ubiquitous. Regulatory initiatives have taken root that will make hearing aids more easily available to those with mild or moderate loss — a huge step forward that could help millions of people, who otherwise wouldn’t, take greater long-term ownership of their hearing care. More ubiquitous hearing aids should lead to greater usage.


That’s significant, because as the WHO is acutely aware, not enough people take care of their hearing nor seek hearing aids when they need them. In Canada alone, as many as 4.6 million people live with unaddressed mild to moderate hearing loss. Worldwide, the WHO estimates that by 2050, nearly one in four people will experience hearing loss, and about 700 million will need access to hearing care.

Mild to moderate hearing loss may seem tolerable to those who suffer from it (knowingly or not), but its effects can be wide-ranging. It can lead suffers to withdraw from social situations when understanding others and communicating with them becomes too difficult. And when hearing loss manifests this way, it’s been shown to affect mental and physical health.


If there’s a silver lining, it’s that eventually, about 20 percent of those who need them seek hearing aids. Unfortunately, it takes an average of seven years to do so — years when more readily available solutions could provide the bridge to long-term, professional hearing care.


In those intervening years, we know hearing risks mount, not subside, especially in our digital age of gadgets and wearables. One of the greatest risks is noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

More Noise Should Lead to Greater Care

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found that a quarter of adults who said they have good hearing were actually suffering measurable hearing loss. And, perhaps not surprisingly, the presence of noise-induced hearing loss — really, the only type of hearing loss that’s preventable — grows as people age.


The fact is “noise” has become a part of everyday life. Not just the noise of traffic, or lawnmowers, or construction work, but the noise we intentionally introduce through earphones, or the increasingly prevalent headsets used for remote work. 


As personal music, podcasts, Zoom calls, and listening to TikTok videos become a regular part of life, noise begets noise. To drown out the lawn mowers, people turn up the volume in their earbuds. Suddenly, they’re above the 70 decibels where the CDC warns prolonged exposure can lead to NIHL.

Yes, it’s within the public’s control to minimize noise exposure. Maybe wear noise-cancelling earbuds to minimize the urge to overcome ambient sound. For its part, Apple has made it so iPhone users can monitor headphone audio levels and receive alerts when they’ve been dangerously high.


All this is to say that the risks of noise-induced hearing loss are known and engrained in our modern lifestyles. Therefore, hearing care should be equally integrated into everyday life and available to anyone who needs it.

Creating a Richer Hearing Health Journey

The WHO believes 60 percent of hearing issues can be identified by primary care. That’s a great start. Similarly, more ubiquitous and easily attainable hearing aids have the potential to boost the number of people who seek to address their mild to moderate hearing loss earlier in life. Having made hearing care part of their lives, they’re in a far better position to tackle the unique challenges of their own unique hearing health journey through engagement with trained hearing care professionals and adoption of more advanced hearing aids.


It’s no small task, especially when every day it seems easier to damage your hearing than care for it. But events like World Hearing Day help normalize hearing care, first by raising awareness, then by encouraging its integration with overall personal care.


It’s a noisy world out there. The right hearing care helps ensure it’s a wonderful world, too.

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