Childhood hearing loss can have a significant impact on the development of a child's communication skills. Even children with mild hearing losses are at risk for delays in their speech and language development, as well as their academic achievement. Many cases of hearing loss, whether temporary or permanent, go undetected, and these children may be unfairly labelled in the classroom as badly behaved or disobedient. The causes for subtle difficulties with language and schoolwork may likewise be missed.
Catching hearing loss early is the best way to prevent problems, and graduate students in McGill's speech-language pathology program recently participated in a hearing screening project in two Montreal schools. Under the supervision of instructor and audiologist Dr. Amee Shah, more than 300 children were screened for signs of otitis media, or infections of the middle ear. Symptoms of otitis media are not always obvious to parents, but a child's hearing can still be affected. The children's ability to detect different sounds was also tested. The data collected by Shah indicates that a large percentage of children in the early grades could be having undetected troubles with their ears. Over 40 percent of the children were referred for further testing. Kindergarten children were the most likely to fail the screening, with results improving for children in grades 1 and 2. If a child failed a portion of the screening parents were informed, and they were referred either to a doctor or audiologist for further assessment.
Graduate student Rebekah Kiraly was motivated by being able to identify children at risk for language delays, and by raising awareness within the schools. "The side effects of hearing loss can be quite dramatic and additive," says Kiraly, "but these effects can so easily be caught and treated, if not prevented. Getting involved was a valuable experience for me".
Resources for Adults with Hearing Loss
When Kathryn* found herself turning up the volume on her T.V. and constantly asking friends to repeat what they were saying, she made an appointment with her doctor to have her ears checked. An audiogram confirmed what she had already suspected: Kathryn had a hearing loss that needed to be addressed. But what resources are available for adults with hearing impairments? While almost two million people in Canada have a hearing loss, many of them do not know about the many workshops, support groups, and assistive listening devices that are available to them in their area.
In Montreal, "CHIP [Communicaid for Hearing Impaired Persons] is a non-profit volunteer organization that is working to make life a little easier and the world a friendlier place for the hearing impaired," reads the back covers of pamphlets describing the many workshops and support groups that are offered to adults with hearing loss. "We work with their families to help them accept their hearing loss, and maximize whatever hearing they have left," says Doreen Cons, president of CHIP. CHIP volunteers can also help people to choose a hearing aid, and then direct them to a hearing aid dealer. Programs such as HEAR [Hearing Education for Aural Rehabilitation] teach effective coping skills and communication strategies for the hearing-impaired and their family members.
CHIP's Technical Aids and Resource Centre provides information and demonstrations of assistive listening devices, and information on government services for the hearing-impaired. Remembering the days before these devices were available, Cons values this popular service. "When my son was about six months old, he would be in his playpen near the telephone. When it rang, he would turn his head to the phone and keep facing it and that's how I knew that the phone was ringing," she recounts. With visual alerting systems for the phone, doorbell, and fire alarm, as well as Telephone Typewriter machines and amplifiers, others like Cons regain their independence as they go about their daily business.
Individuals who are over 21 years of age, and have been diagnosed with a sensorineural or permanent conductive hearing loss, are also eligible for programs at the Mackay Rehabilitation Center. This family-centered environment offers a late-deafened support group, cochlear implant workshops, as well as an American Sign Language course that specifically caters to English and French adults who have become hearing-impaired later in life. The Rehabilitation Center is also a designated distributor of assistive devices covered by RAMQ (Régie de l'assurance maladie du Quebec). Closed captioned movie nights, outreach programs to raise awareness in the community, and school programs to educate students about the dangers of noise to hearing, add to the gamut of services offered by the Mackay Rehabilitation Center and CHIP, which primarily serve the Anglophone population; the Raymond-Dewar Institute (RDI) caters to the Francophone community, and offers a comprehensive range of programs that include courses in LSQ, the Quebec sign language.
*name has been changed to protect the person's privacy.
CHIP is located at the Mackay Centre, 3500 Decarie Blvd, Montreal, Quebec, H4A 3J5. 482-0500 local 215, www.hearhear.org, email: info [at] hearhear.org
The Raymond-Dewar Institute is located 3600 Berri St., Montreal, Quebec, H2L 4G9. 514-284-2581. www.raymond-dewar.qc.ca
A list of resources for individuals with hearing impairment can be found at the website of the Canadian Association of the Deaf: www.cad.ca/