Could your child’s hearing be at risk?

A new after-school program teaches kids how to prevent hearing damage



Whether we’re blasting music on our morning commute or binge-watching the latest Netflix series on our tablets, it feels like we’re plugged into a different device at every hour of the day. But have you ever thought about how those devices could be affecting your hearing?

According to the World Health Organization, a staggering 1.1 billion children and young adults aged 12-35 years old are at risk of losing their ability to hear due to exposure to unsafe levels of sound. The Communicaid for Hearing Impaired Persons (CHIP) is launching Quebec’s first-ever education program on Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) in order to teach children the causes and consequences of hearing loss.

The HEAR-ENTENDRE program launched its pilot project over the summer and it reached more than 500 children at camps across the province. “Thirty years ago, we may have had Walkmans but it was nothing compared to the number of personal audio devices we use today,” says CHIP Executive Director Heidy Wager. “We don’t realize that hearing loss is completely preventable.”

The program’s aim is to implement early prevention in young students through a harm-reduction model and education. Through its after-school program, kids will learn how to measure sound and how exposure to loud audio levels can be dangerous through charts and activities.

The activities are monitored by a hard-of-hearing person who introduces the children to the chart, which measures sounds in terms of decibels (90 being the highest and most dangerous). Children then measure sounds around them — anything from a door slamming to a bus passing by — and compare them to the chart. 

The second activity teaches kids to become familiar with the ear through an obstacle course. After learning about the outer ear, ear canal, eardrum and hair, the children put on different coloured pinnies that represent each decibel and complete an obstacle course that corresponds to the four parts of the ear. The animator then demonstrates the irreparable damage that can be done with pipe cleaners.

“The pipe cleaners can never be straight once bent, just like your hearing ability can never be repaired once damaged,” says Wager, underlining the importance of prevention methods.

Children are also taught four tips to prevent hearing loss:

1. Turn down the volume on personal audio devices as much as possible

2. Walk away from the speakers or stereos

3. Spend less time wearing headphones

4. Practice protection (such as wearing ear plugs) when possible

The educational program will be delivered throughout the school year through a presentation of interactive videos and demonstrations. Organizers hope this will become an annual endeavour geared to students in Grades 4-5.

HEAR-ENTENDRE is the first program of its kind in Quebec, and is funded through partnerships with the Hearing Foundation of Canada as well as donations.

To make a donation, visit hearhear.nationbuilder.com.

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