How untreated hearing loss can affect the health of Black Canadians

Audiologist Dekota Clayton is holding a free information session at the Black Cultural Centre in Cherry Brook, N.S., on Jan. 24. (Submitted by Dekota Clayton - image credit)
Audiologist Dekota Clayton is holding a free information session at the Black Cultural Centre in Cherry Brook, N.S., on Jan. 24. (Submitted by Dekota Clayton - image credit)

A Dartmouth, N.S., audiologist is holding an information session for members of the Black community next week to talk about the far-reaching impacts of untreated hearing loss, including its connection to dementia.

"Thyroid disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease — all of these are tied to hearing," Dekota Clayton, co-owner of Hear Right Canada, told CBC Radio's Information Morning Nova Scotia.

Even though hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition in this country, Clayton said people wait an average of seven to 10 years before they seek treatment.

"And we know that many members of our Black communities have multiple health conditions so they may have a synergistic effect where it's not just hearing loss, it's hearing loss plus A, B and C that could be ... fast tracking the progression of certain conditions."

Link between hearing loss and dementia 

While Clayton said there is little comparable health data in Canada, research from the U.S. found that people of African descent are two times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia.

The Alzheimer Society of Canada, meanwhile, estimates that about 40 per cent of dementia cases can be modified through lifestyle changes. In fact, genetics account for less than five per cent of all cases, said Sacha Nadeau, director of programs and services at the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia.

The national society issued a report last fall that lists 12 steps people can take at any stage of life to help address the risk factors, including being physically active, maintaining good heart health and wearing hearing aids.

"Maintaining your hearing, getting hearing checked is really important," Nadeau told Information Morning earlier this week.

Loss of hearing can also mean a loss of social connection, which can deteriorate someone's mental health, she added.

Clayton is teaming up with the Health Association of African Canadians to host the hearing loss information session next week.

Submitted by Sharon Davis-Murdoch
Submitted by Sharon Davis-Murdoch

Sharon Davis-Murdoch, co-president of the association, said it's important to bring health resources directly to the people who need them.

"I think that the value is in the very placement of where this is, at the Black Cultural Centre. That they know it is for them and about them," she said. "You know that you're welcome. You know that you're going to have the opportunity to ask questions."

Clayton hopes participants take away the message that hearing loss can have a ripple affect on their overall health.

"It's about being proactive and being motivated to make change," he said.

The free lunch and information session is taking place at the Black Cultural Centre in Cherry Brook on Jan. 24. from 6 to 8 p.m.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.