Deafness: does it affect only seniors?

August 12, 2016 by Maude Cadieux-Laurin

Surdite personnes agées

We often forget that numerous factors can lead to deafness. These include genetics, a hearing or vestibular system pathology, an infection, a head injury, or excessive noise exposure. Deafness can occur in children, adults, and seniors.

Profile of Canadian adults reporting hearing loss:

  • 2% aged 45 to 54
  • 8.5% aged 55 to 64
  • 25% aged 65 to 74
  • 50% aged 75 and over
  • More than one million Canadians, or 50% more than those reporting visual difficulties

Statistics show that the risk of deafness increases with age. Presbycusis (age-related hearing loss) is the third most common chronic condition.

Deafness in children

People tend to ignore the risk of deafness (hypoacusis) in children. Recommendations to have children’s hearing screened at birth and tested by an audiologist before starting school are frequently taken lightly. The average age at deafness diagnosis in children is 7 to 8 years old.

When hearing loss risk factors are known, parents are more likely to inquire about their children’s hearing. However, the absence of risk factor does not necessarily eliminate the possibility of hypoacusis. Deafness varies in terms of degree (slight, moderate, severe), sound frequency (low, medium, high), and ear affected (one or both). This can make it difficult for parents to notice deafness in their children.

Many studies show that the impact of hypoacusis on language and learning development is significantly less when deafness is diagnosed before the age of 9 months. Learning and behavioural problems tend to emerge when school begins.

Deafness in children: Statistics

  • 1 to 6 Canadian children out of 1,000 are born with significant deafness or become deaf when young.
  • Around 90% of hearing-impaired children have normal-hearing parents.
  • 10 to 13 school-age children out of 1,000 have unilateral hearing loss (in one ear only).

Auditory testing

Not all deafness is age-related. About 4 to 12% of Canadians of all ages report having hypoacusis. Only 35% of the population has ever had a hearing test, therefore statistics on the subject are very limited.

An auditory test will help determine the state of a person’s hearing. We recommend it for adults aged 50 and over, as soon as possible or before the first school year for children, and every two years for people with hearing loss for a follow-up.

Consult an audiologist to find out more.

INSPQ, “Le dépistage de la surdité chez le nouveau-né : évaluation des avantages, des inconvénients et des coûts de son implantation au Québec.” Online. Consulted April 5, 2016.
AQEPA, “Ce que disent les recherches sur la surdité unilatérale chez l’enfant.”. Excerpt from Entendre : Surdité unilatérale. No. 166. Online. Consulted April 5, 2016.
NIDCD, “Quick Statistics About Hearing.” 2015. Online. Consulted March 16, 2016.

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