It was 2009 when Devin Fenwick started to notice people began communicating differently with him.
Working as an environmental consultant in the occupational hygiene sector, Fenwick had to be alert and aware of his surroundings at work. He also had to visit clients’ houses where communication was of the utmost importance.
Fenwick noticed people would have to constantly repeat what they were saying to him, they would raise their voices and he noticed they would become annoyed having to repeat themselves over and over again.
Gradually over the years, things got worse and Fenwick eventually decided to take some time off work. It was during that time that a relative saw a newspaper ad about a free trial pair of hearing aids and suggested he give it a go. After a number of exams, which included an MRI, CT scan and blood tests, Fenwick discovered he suffered from severe genetic hearing loss.
Fenwick, who recently turned 41, admits he was in denial and was stubborn to admit he had a hearing problem. He was also afraid of the stigma attached to hearing loss and having to wear hearing aids, and was worried people would treat him differently.
“In the back of your mind, you’re thinking, I don’t give a s*** what people think, but at the same time you’re thinking I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do that because they might judge me because I wear hearing aids,” he said.
All of that has changed recently, as Fenwick was the recipient of new hearing aids, as part of the National Campaign for Better Hearing.
The campaign was established to provide proper hearing assessments to everyone over the age of 60 for free. For every hearing test taken, the campaign also donates $4 towards providing hearing aids to people who can’t afford them, such as Fenwick.
“It’s definitely helped me for the better. You hear noises that you didn’t hear before — birds chirping, things that I heard when I was younger, but they just faded out,” said Fenwick, noting his sister is now going through hearing loss and he hopes his experience will help her through her denial.
“I realize now, when I talk to her, how frustrating it is for other people when I was like that.”
According to Jillian Price, chief audiologist of HearingLife Canada, hearing loss can affect anyone at any age and is often something that goes unnoticed.
“Many individuals don’t even notice they have hearing loss. It’s a very gradual thing. They’re coping or dealing with it. It’s one of our five senses,” she said, adding people of all ages should get their hearing tested regularly so individuals can better monitor and protect the hearing that they have.
“I want people to start thinking about it and put it on their medical wellness protocol. We check our eyes, we check our hearts, we do all these things to keep ourselves healthy, but we take hearing for granted.”
Last year, the campaign provided roughly 120 hearing aids to those in need, including two people in Victoria. For more information visit campaignforbetterhearing.org.