Hear Quebec’s new program
aims to prevent NIHL
Your children may be at risk for noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL)
Ashley Mayoff was born with hearing loss in both ears and growing up had difficulty socializing. Mayoff now wears Baha hearing aids, surgically implanted devices that transmit sound to the brain. She says that she would be “in a very different place” without them. Even with these helpful devices she still faces challenges. As an animator for Hear Quebec’s Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) program, she was able to use her experience to educate children. In her presentations, she would explain that while she was born with hearing loss, NIHL is preventable.
The World Health Organization reports that 1.1 billion youth worldwide are at risk of NIHL with that number expecting to increase in the coming years due to unsafe listening habits. NIHL is a permanent loss of hearing that occurs over time due to unprotected, repeated and prolonged exposure to loud sounds or from sudden exposure to extremely loud noise. In the same report, it was revealed that 60% of childhood hearing loss is preventable.
“Thirty years ago, we may have had Walkmans but it was nothing compared to the number of personal audio devices we use today,” says Hear Executive Director Heidy Wager. “We don’t realize that hearing loss is completely preventable.”
Hear Quebec (formerly known as Communicaid for the Hearing Impaired Persons or CHIP) is the first in Quebec to offer such a program. Since its launch last summer the program has reached over 1600 kids in summer camps and schools across Montreal.
“It started from one of our members, Debra Fisher, a speech-reading instructor who is hard of hearing herself. She brought up the issue of noise-induced hearing loss and felt something should be done,” explains Wager. “We started an advisory committee and looked at what was offered in the community, nationally and internationally.” The program represents a change for Hear. “Our mission was to help people who were affected by hearing loss. There was no mention of prevention or working with children.”
“This program has been in the rest of Canada for 15 years, but not here,” Wager said. “It is the same type of info but based on the educational model, classroom presentations using activity sheets and workbooks.”
The World Health Organization reports that 1.1 billion youth worldwide are at risk of NIHL with that number expecting to increase in the coming years due to unsafe listening habits.
The program aims to promote awareness through fun, interactive workshops. Participants learn about how to prevent NIHL by staying safe in noisy environments. The program is based on a harm reduction model with a holistic approach, informing children, their parents, and the community more broadly about the causes, consequences, and prevention of NIHL. The harm-reduction model consists of reducing the “health risks associated with the risky behaviours rather than to eliminate the behaviour” (NSRA, 2017) using intervention programs.
The NIHL program comes in two presentation models:
Recreational – ideal for day camps, gym classes, and after-school programs
Educational – ideal for classroom settings, this model is based on The Hearing Foundation of Canada’s enormously successful Sound Sense program
“We start with teaching them about sound,” Hear Quebec Program Coordinator Abby Stonehouse explains, “About high and low decibels and why some are more dangerous than others. Very loud sounds with high decibels could be really damaging in a shorter time. We teach them how to measure the sounds around them with a sound meter and through interactive, fun games.”
As a unique feature, the program continues to be presented by people with hearing loss. Remarked by a past program leader, “You see the value in having an animator with hearing loss. It gets kids to ask questions they would never ask otherwise.”
Now more than ever it is important that youth are aware of the serious risks that they may be posing to their hearing, risks that may only manifest in very permanent ways in their later years.
For more information about Hear Quebec and its Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) program visit hearhear.org
Read also: other articles about CHIP/CAPA