To the editor;
Hearing loss affects over a billion people around the world, including hundreds of thousands of British Columbians of all ages. In developed countries it is the third most common chronic health condition in adults.
Hearing loss may interfere with effective communication and thus lead to frustration, stress, loneliness, fatigue, and difficulties in relationships. Perhaps as a consequence, large studies consistently show that adults with hearing loss are more likely to develop health problems including dementia, falls, isolation and frailty, even after controlling for confounding factors such as age.
Such research, though well executed, does not prove that cause-and-effect relationships exist between hearing loss and health declines. The studies do, however, support the need for greater access to hearing health care. Only a small minority of people (as low as 15 per cent in some studies) who might benefit from using hearing aids actually wear them. Barriers may include cost, negative attitudes towards hearing aids, a misperception that hearing loss is inconsequential, or lack of knowledge about available services or how to access them. Public health campaigns rarely address the needs of hearing impaired individuals, and universal subsidies for hearing aids are non-existent.
The Hear4U Foundation is a B.C. charity that aims to improve access to hearing health care. For the occasion of Better Speech and Hearing Month, we have unveiled a hearing aid recycling program that will provide refurbished hearing aids to low income British Columbians at little or no cost.
Our volunteer clinicians at over 40 hearing clinics in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, and the Okanagan are accepting donations of used but functioning aids, cleaning them, replacing the parts that go into the ear with new components, and fitting them onto individuals who cannot afford new devices.
People who are interested in finding out more about the program, such as where to drop off donated hearing aids, which types of devices we are looking for, or how to receive a refurbished aid, should visit our website at hear4u.ca.
The website also contains answers to frequently asked questions and information about subsidies available for brand new aids. For example, most people do not know that workers and volunteers with hearing loss qualify for one-time financial assistance for hearing aids through the government-sponsored WorkBC and Technology at Work programs.
Information about who qualifies for public and private financial assistance programs, and how to access them, is detailed on our site.
If you are interested in our foundation, please visit our website or contact email@example.com.
Paul Mick, MD MPH FRCSC
President, Hear4U Foundation