Ensuring greater inclusion on World Hearing Day

A child holds headphones

The UN marks World Hearing Day every March 3 to draw attention to one of the keys to communication and personal safety – our ability to hear – and to the one-in-five individuals who live with hearing loss.

The theme of World Hearing Day this year is “to hear for life, listen with care”. It focuses on ways of preventing hearing loss through what’s called “safe listening”. That means keeping earbud volume levels low, keeping the windows closed when driving on the highway, and wearing protection for activities like mowing the lawn.

We also must remain focused on those who experience hearing loss. Those who’ve never experienced it may be unaware of the terrible barriers it can create in life. The pandemic has only increased these challenges because of the use of masks. Those who normally rely on reading facial expressions and lip movement can no longer do so, while social distancing has meant that voices are even harder to hear.  The pandemic has also been linked to increased social isolation – something those with hearing loss may already experience more often, even in normal times.

COVID-19 has also increased inequities for the hard-of-hearing in our built and social environments. For example, accessing health care has become more difficult, since not all telemedicine platforms and hospitals provide translation services for people with hearing loss.

The pandemic is an opportunity to develop infrastructure that is more inclusive of deaf and hard-of-hearing people. As the deadline for implementing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) approaches, the government must ensure any remaining barriers for these individuals are removed.

OPSEU/SEFPO endeavours to ensure that translators are available at OPSEU/SEFPO events whenever and wherever they are requested or required.

As we await more comprehensive government policy and legislation – both to protect hearing and to expand inclusion – we take World Hearing Day to reflect on our responsibility to ensure that no member of society is left behind.