Prevention is better than cure

A concept in the shape of the “Sound Sense Program” was developed in 2005, in order to create awareness among children at primary schools in Canada of the protection of their hearing and to warn them of the risk of noise-induced hearing loss. For this purpose, the initiators travel through the entire country with the support of the Hear the World Foundation, to ensure that the “iPod generation” can preserve their hearing.

Place & Year

Canada, 2009, 2011


Main Focus

Children Providing audiological care for children in low-income countries is a focal area of the Hear the World Foundation’s activities.
Professional training The Hear the World Foundation supports projects that enable continuous audiological training for professionals on site.
Prevention of hearing loss The Hear the World Foundation globally promotes awareness for the topics of hearing and hearing loss and thus actively contributes toward the prevention of hearing loss.
Programs for parents & families By supporting self-help groups for parents, the Hear the World Foundation makes an important contribution, thus ensuring that affected parents receive specific help and assistance.

The “Sound Sense Program” was developed in Canada as early as in 2005, the reason behind it being numerous studies demonstrating that noise-induced hearing loss was occurring increasingly often. Loud concerts, the “in-ear phones”, iPods everywhere one turned, noise-creating video games, etc. can lead to hearing loss when used over extensively. Over 3.3 million Canadians of all ages suffer from adverse effects to their hearing.

Noise: the second most frequent cause of hearing loss

Only 15 minutes of a person being exposed to a very loud noise of 100 dB and above can be enough to cause permanent hearing damage. This fact particularly bothers Gael Hannan, Manageress of “Sound Sense”: “I myself have suffered from a severe hearing loss right from birth and it breaks my heart to watch how some children and young people expose themselves to a high level of noise.” The initiator regrets that the human hearing and the way it works is still not included in the primary school curriculum.

One-hour of training can to do a lot

Parents at home are also taken into consideration in the program. They receive brochures telling them how they can help to protect their children’s hearing. 99 per cent of the teachers whose students have taken part in the course report that their students now have extensive knowledge about their hearing and clearly deal more attentively and cautiously with noise in their environment as well. They turn down the volume control for music and TV and give sources of noise in the street a wide berth.

Interview with Gael Hannan, Manager of the “Sound Sense Program” of the Hearing Foundation of Canada.

At what age do students take part, and what criteria are used in choosing the schools?
Gael Hannan: “Our target group is students between the ages of 9 and 12, and there are several reasons for this. At this age, many children are already exposed to activities with high noise volumes: loud music with digital audio players, video games or concerts. But they are also old enough to grasp the medical connections and take an active part in discussions."

What exactly happens at schools in this training program?
Gael Hannan: “The children learn about how their hearing works, how hearing connects them to the world, and what a negative influence noise in their surroundings has. We give them simple tips about how they can protect their hearing, we give them ear plugs and also a leaflet to take home to their parents. In the course, we watch a child-friendly and lively DVD together, and subsequently, in a sound check, they can measure the volume of their own audio player or iPod.”

Are there any studies to assess the extent to which the children’s behaviour changes after taking part in the program?
Gael Hannan: “Studies carried out together with the University of British Columbia and St. Paul’s Hospital have shown that there is increased use of ear plugs to protect hearing, and the students pay noticeably more attention to high noise levels in their surroundings.”