Hearing Loss and Hearing Aids – The Guide for Seniors in Canada

Everything you need to know about Hearing Loss

Hearing is one of the most vital senses for humans, as it allows us to communicate and connect with the world around us. Unfortunately, hearing loss and tinnitus, commonly known as ringing in the ears, are prevalent conditions among Canadian adults. According to recent statistics, hearing loss affects 38% of Canadian adults between the ages of 20 to 79, while 37% suffer from tinnitus.

While hearing loss is more prevalent among older Canadians, the percentage of individuals with tinnitus remains consistent across all age groups. Shockingly, 60% of Canadians between the ages of 19 to 79 have experienced hearing health problems, whether it be audiometrically measured hearing loss, tinnitus, or both.

One concerning aspect of these statistics is that many Canadians between the ages of 40 to 79 years old are unaware that they have hearing loss. However, it’s not all bad news, as a recent study has found that 40% of Canadian adults are free of hearing health problems.

Another alarming factor is that hypertension, a prevalent condition affecting over one in five Canadian adults, has been linked to the development of hearing loss and tinnitus. Individuals with hypertension are 70% more likely to experience hearing health problems compared to their counterparts without hypertension.

Hearing loss and tinnitus can be potentially disabling conditions that can impact many aspects of life, such as levels of stress, mental health, and interpersonal relationships. It is crucial for individuals to take preventive measures and seek professional help if they experience any signs of hearing loss or tinnitus. With the right treatment and support, individuals can overcome these challenges and continue to lead fulfilling lives.

Types Of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can take different forms, and its impact can vary from missing specific sounds to a complete loss of hearing. Two categories of hearing loss are sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve and is typically irreversible. This type of hearing loss is known to affect a wide range of frequencies and can cause difficulty in understanding speech and hearing in noisy environments.
Conductive hearing loss, on the other hand, occurs when sound waves are unable to reach the inner ear. Causes of conductive hearing loss include earwax buildup, fluid, or a perforated eardrum. Unlike sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss is usually reversible with medical treatment or surgery.

It’s essential to identify the type and cause of hearing loss accurately to determine the appropriate treatment. Therefore, seeking professional help and a thorough evaluation is necessary to determine the best course of action. With the right support and treatment, individuals with hearing loss can regain their hearing ability and improve their quality of life.

Causes Of Age-Related Hearing Loss

Age-related hearing loss is common in seniors and can occur due to various factors. The most common causes are changes in the inner ear, middle ear, and along the brain’s nerve pathways.

  • Changes in the inner ear (most common)
  • Changes in the middle ear
  • Changes along the brain’s nerve pathways
  • Continual exposure to loud sounds (such as music or work-related noise)
  • Hair follicle death (leading to loss of sensory receptors in the inner ear)
  • Heredity
  • Health problems like heart disease and diabetes
  • Certain drugs, such as aspirin and antibiotics, have side effects which may result in hearing loss.

Signs you might be experiencing hearing loss:

  • Difficulty hearing on the phone
  • Struggling to keep up with conversations involving multiple people
  • Frequently asking individuals to repeat themselves
  • Having to turn up the volume on the TV
  • Struggling to hear in noisy environments
  • Difficulty understanding women and children’s voices
  • Experiencing tinnitus (ringing in the ears) in one or both ears.

It’s essential to seek medical attention if you are experiencing any of these symptoms as ignoring or leaving hearing loss untreated can lead to further deterioration.

Treatment For Age-Related Hearing Loss

If left untreated, hearing loss has been linked to a deterioration in cognitive abilities, such as memory and attention. Although age-related hearing loss is mostly incurable as it is a natural occurrence, there are treatment options available for its management. These treatments have been proven effective in ensuring a better quality of life for seniors living with this condition.

Here are some of the treatment possibilities for age-related hearing loss:

  • Hearing aids
  • Assistive listening devices, such as telephone amplifiers
  • Speech-reading training to use visual cues to determine what is being said
  • Methods for preventing ear wax buildup

It’s crucial to seek professional help to determine the type and cause of hearing loss and receive appropriate treatment. With the right support and management, individuals with age-related hearing loss can improve their hearing ability and maintain their cognitive function, leading to a better quality of life.

Hearing Devices For Managing Hearing Loss
There are several devices that can be used in the management of hearing loss in seniors. These devices include:

Hearing Aids
Hearing aids are electrical, battery-operated devices that increase the volume of sounds. There are various types of hearing aids available to suit different types of hearing loss. These include:

  • Completely In the Canal (CIC) hearing aid: Designed to fit within your ear canal, these aids are suitable for people with mild to moderate hearing loss.
  • In The Canal (ITC) hearing aid: Custom-molded to fit partially into the ear canal, ITC aids are less noticeable in the ear due to their small size. However, their size may make them difficult to adjust. Seniors with mild to moderate hearing loss may benefit from this type of hearing aid.
  • In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid: ITE hearing aids come in two styles, full shell and partial shell, both suitable for people with mild to severe hearing loss. They come with directional microphones for better hearing in noise.
  • Behind-The-Ear (BTE) hearing aid: Worn behind the ear and hooked over the top, BTE aids are suitable for people of any age and virtually any form of hearing loss. The aid is connected to a personalized earpiece called an earmold that fits in your ear canal through a tube.
  • Open-fit hearing aid: With a thin tube or a receiver-in-the-canal, open-fit hearing aids leave the ear canal wide open, allowing low-frequency sounds to enter naturally while high-frequency sounds are boosted by the aid. This design benefits people with improved low-frequency hearing and mild to moderate high-frequency hearing loss.
  • Receiver in canal (RIC) hearing aid: Similar to behind-the-ear hearing aids, RIC aids have the speaker or receiver located in the ear canal. However, the component behind the ear is connected to the speaker or receiver by a small wire rather than tubing. These aids are usually less noticeable than BTE hearing aids.

It’s essential to seek professional advice and guidance to determine which type of hearing aid is best suited for your hearing loss. With the right hearing aid, seniors with hearing loss can improve their hearing ability and maintain their quality of life.

How Do Hearing Aids Work?

Hearing aids work by collecting sounds from your surroundings and making them louder. All hearing aids have the same basic components. The majority of hearing aids are digital and use either a regular hearing aid battery or rechargeable batteries to operate.

Small microphones collect sounds from the surroundings, and the incoming sound is converted into digital code by a computer chip with an amplifier. The amplifier analyzes and adapts the sound based on your hearing loss, listening requirements, and the volume of noises in the environment. The amplified signals are then transformed into sound waves and supplied to your ears via speakers, which are also known as receivers.

With the use of advanced technology, modern hearing aids are capable of providing clearer and more natural sound quality, reducing background noise, and adjusting to different listening environments automatically. Seeking professional help to determine the best hearing aid and customizing the settings based on your individual needs can significantly improve your hearing ability and overall quality of life.

Assistive Listening Devices

Assistive listening devices (ALDs) are designed for people who are not satisfied with the hearing improvements offered by hearing aids. ALDs make it easier to hear and communicate by allowing personal connections to gadgets. There are different types of ALDs, including amplified phones, hearing aid compatible phones and smartphones, television compatible gadgets, and alerting devices.

ALDs are versatile and can be used with a wide range of gadgets and devices, both indoors and outdoors. They are designed to enhance sound quality and improve speech intelligibility in different listening environments, such as noisy public places, theaters, and classrooms.

By using ALDs, individuals with hearing loss can significantly improve their communication and quality of life. Seeking professional help to determine the most suitable type of ALD and customizing the settings based on individual needs can maximize the benefits of these devices.

Cochlear Implants

A cochlear implant is an electrical device that restores hearing to some extent. It may be a viable alternative for those with severe hearing loss due to damage to the inner ear after all other traditional hearing aids have been tried.

Unlike hearing aids, which enhance sound, a cochlear implant delivers sound impulses directly to the hearing nerve by bypassing damaged parts of the ear. The sound processor used with cochlear implants is placed behind the ear, and sound signals are captured by this processor and sent to a receiver implanted beneath the skin behind the ear. The impulses are then sent to electrodes implanted in the inner ear via the receiver (cochlea).

The impulses stimulate the auditory nerve, which then sends them to the brain. Although the brain interprets the impulses as sounds, they may not be identical to the natural sound quality heard from a person speaking.

Cochlear implants are highly effective for individuals with severe to profound hearing loss who are not able to benefit from traditional hearing aids. They can significantly improve speech recognition, sound localization, and overall communication. However, like any medical procedure, cochlear implantation involves risks and potential complications, and it’s essential to seek professional advice and guidance to determine whether it’s a suitable option for your hearing impairment.

Buying Hearing Aids

Before choosing and buying hearing aids, there are several things and options you should review to ensure that your device will be the perfect solution for you:

Make an appointment for a physical examination with your family doctor to rule out any potentially treatable causes of hearing loss, such as earwax or infection.
Have your hearing tested by an audiologist. CARP’s recommended partner is Hearing Life Canada, who offer free, no-obligation hearing tests.  If there’s no Hearing Life location near you, ask your doctor for a reference. An audiologist will conduct a hearing test for you, help you select the best hearing aid, and customize the device to match your specific needs.

Inquire about a trial period. Hearing aids are generally available with a trial period, which allows you to test the device and determine whether it’s suitable for you.

Be aware that hearing aids cannot restore normal hearing or completely remove background noise (total noise reduction). You should be wary of claims made by commercials or dispensers to the contrary.

Understanding the limitations and benefits of hearing aids can help you make an informed decision and manage your expectations.

Seeking professional advice and guidance can also help you choose the most appropriate hearing device for your hearing loss and lifestyle.

Hearing Aid Prices In Canada

Hearing aids are an effective solution for individuals with hearing loss, but they can be expensive. In Canada, hearing aids are partially covered under  different provincial health care programs.

Alberta Aids to Daily Living (AADL) program: Eligibility is based on income and residency in Alberta. The funding amount for hearing aids is up to $1,000 per ear every five years.

British Columbia
BC Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction: Eligibility is based on income and residency in British Columbia. The funding amount for hearing aids is up to $700 per ear every five years. Hearing aids are not covered under the Medical Services Plan (MSP). There are limited alternative funding options available that your audiologist or hearing instrument practitioner can advise you on.

Health Sciences Association of BC (HSABC): Eligibility is for members of the HSABC union. The funding amount for hearing aids is up to $2,000 per ear every four years.

Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living (MHSAL) program: Eligibility is based on age, (65+) income and residency in Manitoba. The funding amount for hearing aids is up to $1,000 per ear every five years.

New Brunswick
New Brunswick Department of Social Development: Eligibility is based on income and residency in New Brunswick. The funding amount for hearing aids is up to $500 per ear every five years.

Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador Ministry of Health and Community Services: Eligibility is based on income and residency in Newfoundland and Labrador. The funding amount for hearing aids is up to $500 per ear every five years.

Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia Department of Community Services: Eligibility is based on income and residency in Nova Scotia. The funding amount for hearing aids is up to $500 per ear every five years.

Assistive Devices Program (ADP): Eligibility is based on residency in Ontario and requires a prescription from a qualified healthcare professional. The funding amount for hearing aids is up to $500 and FM systems up to a maximum of $1,350.

Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP): Eligibility is based on income and disability status. The funding amount for hearing aids is up to $500 per ear every five years.

Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island Department of Health and Wellness: Eligibility is based on income and residency in Prince Edward Island. The funding amount for hearing aids is up to $500 per ear every five years.

Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ): Eligibility is based on residency in Quebec and requires a prescription from a qualified healthcare professional. The funding amount for hearing aids is up to $779 per ear every five years.

Saskatchewan Ministry of Health: Eligibility is based on residency in Saskatchewan and requires a prescription from a qualified healthcare professional. The funding amount for hearing aids is up to $1,000 per ear every four years.

Here’s what you need to know about the cost of hearing aids:

The hearing aids cost can vary depending on the type, style, and features. Generally, each hearing aid costs an average of $1,000 to $5,000 per ear. Most people who require hearing aids require one for each ear, two in total.
The cost of hearing aids can also vary depending on the brand, model, features, and the dispensing fee charged by the hearing healthcare professional. CARP’s recommended partner is Hearing Life Canada (see details below).

Additionally, some private insurance plans, government programs, and charities may offer financial assistance or coverage for hearing aids. Hearing care professionals and hearing aid providers must be accredited by the Speech-Language & Audiology Canada (previously, known as Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists (CASLPA)).

Remember, hearing aids are a long-term investment in your health and well-being. While the cost can be a barrier for some individuals, there are ways to make hearing aids more affordable. By taking advantage of Government programs, insurance coverage, financing options, and local resources, you can find a solution that works for you.

Adjusting To Hearing Aids

Adjusting to new hearing aids can take time and practice. Regular use is key to becoming proficient in listening with them. It is important to note that your voice may sound different to you while wearing hearing aids.

After your initial fitting, adjustments may need to be made to ensure the best sound quality. It is recommended to bring a spouse or friend to your first few hearing aid appointments, as their familiar voice can help you better understand how the hearing aids sound and how they can assist you.

Importance Of Hearing

Checking our hearing regularly is essential for maintaining good overall health and quality of life. Hearing loss is a common condition that affects many individuals, particularly as they age. However, it is important to recognize that hearing impairment is not just a natural part of aging and can be caused by a variety of factors such as exposure to loud noises, certain medical conditions, and genetics.

If left untreated, hearing loss can have a significant impact on a person’s social, emotional, and cognitive well-being. It can lead to feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety, as well as cognitive decline and difficulty communicating with loved ones. Fortunately, there are many treatment options available for individuals with hearing impairment, including hearing aids, cochlear implants, and assistive listening devices.

Regular hearing screenings can help identify hearing loss early on and allow for prompt intervention and treatment. Hearing screenings are quick, painless, and non-invasive, and can be performed by a variety of healthcare professionals, including audiologists and family doctors.

In summary, hearing loss is a common condition that can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of hearing loss and seek professional help if you are experiencing hearing difficulties. Regular hearing screenings are essential for maintaining good hearing health and can help identify hearing loss early on, allowing for timely intervention and treatment. By taking care of our hearing, we can improve our overall health and well-being and continue to enjoy the sounds of life.

CARP Members Hearing Care Benefits Program

CARP has teamed up with the professionals at HearingLife to provide the very best hearing care services to all its Members. HearingLife and its Network Partners have over 350 clinics across the Nation and form the largest network of Hearing Health care providers in Canada.

Why Register?

Because Hearing Health matters! Let us illustrate

The HearingLife Advantage program provides CARP members and their family with exclusive discounts and offers to improve their hearing health.  Register at the link below to receive your Advantage Club Pass card which has detail of your Member special benefits as a result of CARP’s partnership with HearingLife.

To begin registering now, visit hearinglifeadvantage.ca/carp/

Contact HearingLife at 1-888-521-3764



Thank you to Seniors Bulletin for sharing information in this report with CARP members.