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Ken Hiles, a veteran of the South Island Musical Society, found his performances improved once he could hear what his fellow performers were doing. - Andrew Leong/file
Ken Hiles, a veteran of the South Island Musical Society, found his performances improved once he could hear what his fellow performers were doing.
— image credit: Andrew Leong/file

Seven years ago, Ken Hiles realized he had a hearing problem.

Years of working using chainsaws with no hearing protection and driving large noisy trucks contributed to a slow deterioration of his hearing.

“Hearing loss is a funny thing. You’re not aware of it. You don’t know you have it until someone puts you into a position that allows you to hear correctly and then you say ‘Oh my God.’”

In crowded rooms where more than one person was speaking, Hiles found himself struggling.

“I might as well have been a vegetable at the table. I couldn’t participate in the conversation.”

His wife, Janice, was wondering if he was suffering from more than hearing loss.

“It was just so frustrating being around him. He couldn’t hear so much of what was being said. He would misconstrue words. It was almost like early dementia; he just wasn’t grasping things.”

Ken, who sings with the South Island Musical Theatre Society, then discovered his hearing deficiency was affecting his range of voice.

“I was missing a lot in my vocal training because I couldn’t hear properly. I don’t have a problem with low notes but I was missing the high notes. I didn’t realize I was missing that in my training.”

Janice said it was affecting more than his range.

“He could be in choir and sing a wrong verse of a song and continue to sing it not realizing everyone else around him wasn’t on the same verse.”

Hiles decided it was time to get some help. He visited a clinic in Victoria that advertised a free trial with hearing aids.

“It was more of an advertising gimmick to get a cheaper deal on a set of hearing aids. The people there weren’t doctors. I paid $5,000 and hardly wore them because I couldn’t stand to have them in. It was like wearing ear plugs but you could hear all the sound and noise. That was until I met Dr. Miranda.”

Dr. Terence Miranda is a doctor of audiology in the Cowichan Valley who fitted Ken with a more appropriate aid.

“I tried a new aid that allows air to move within my ear canal instead of blocking it off,” Ken said. “I just said ‘thank you.’ I thought I would never hear like this again.”

Janice was equally grateful.

“The difference for me and our relationship was immediate and amazing. He can hear, he can be part of a conversation, he can comprehend a couple of things at once and not shut off.”

Miranda said good hearing is correlated with a good quality of life.

“Good hearing allows us to participate and communicate in different social situations. When someone’s hearing is improved — properly — they experience a significant improvement in the quality of their life. It’s why I love what I do.”

He recommends people older that 50 take a baseline assessment of their hearing, even if they aren’t experiencing loss.

“The baseline is an important part of general health. If there is a change, you know how fast it’s occurring.

Miranda recognizes there is a stigma associated with hearing loss and understands people want a discrete solution.

“Only 25% of people with significant hearing loss actually do something about it. They don’t want their grandfather’s hearing instrument. Manufacturers have tried to make hearing instruments more aesthetically pleasing.”

Ken isn’t bothered if people know he wears a hearing aid. In fact, he offers advice to anyone he sees using power tools without hearing protection.

“I go up and talk to them. I tell them if you damage your ears, you can’t get it back, except with aids. I tell them they are being foolish.”

Visit to learn more.


Exercise helps!

Dr. Miranda offers this advice on how to avoid hearing loss.

The hair cells in the cochlea in the ear are exceptionally tiny and sensitive. They require good blood flow. The better the cardiovascular health, the better chance you give to those cells and the less likely they are to get damaged.

Also, avoid exposure to loud sounds. Be vigilant about protecting your hearing.

Some hearing loss facts:

Hearing loss affects 10 to 20% of the population.

It increases with age but doesn’t only happen as you age: one in 1000 children are born with hearing loss.

Because of a stigma associated with hearing loss, only 25% of people with significant hearing loss actually find a solution.


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