May 06, 2009 11:45 ET

The Not-So-Silent Crisis: 49% of North Americans Put Their Hearing at Risk Every Week, Yet Majority Go Untested for Years

Unitron launches uHear™, a hearing screening test application for the iPhone™ and iPod touch®

KITCHENER, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 6, 2009) - Despite widespread concern about the impact of hearing loss on their quality of life, 49 percent of North Americans expose themselves at least once per week to potential harm and 61 percent haven't had their hearing tested within the past five years, according to a new survey from Unitron and Angus Reid. In celebration of Better Hearing and Speech Month, Unitron is attempting to change these numbers with today's launch of uHear(TM) - a breakthrough hearing test application for the iPhone(TM) and iPod touch(R).

While hearing loss affects an estimated 35 million people across North America, the survey shows an alarming disparity between North Americans' awareness of how they're damaging their hearing, and their willingness to prevent or assess potential hearing loss. In fact, nearly 60 percent never wear hearing protection, and most don't seek the necessary care when it comes to their ears - 13% of respondents said they've never had their hearing tested.

Available on iTunes for 99 cents, uHear is a simple self-administered screening test to identify potential hearing loss through three assessments: Hearing Sensitivity, Speech in Noise and a Questionnaire about common listening situations. Unlike other hearing screenings, uHear is a sophisticated and comprehensive test with real-life results, calibrated to test actual hearing thresholds and calibrated for both ears. People can retake the test at different times to see if their hearing thresholds have temporarily shifted, such as after a rock concert, listening to a loud MP3 player, or following a head cold. uHear also offers a 'Locate' function to help find the nearest Hearing Health Care Professional for a full follow-up. Proceeds of uHear will be donated by Unitron to charities that support hearing loss awareness and education.

"Most people assume it's heavy metal fans, construction workers and miners who suffer from hearing loss, but it's the things we do every day that can do the most damage. The world is getting noisier, but using the 'turn up to tune out' strategy to cope is not the answer," says Donald Hayes, Ph.D., Director of Audiology for Unitron. "Due to fear, vanity, embarrassment or apathy, people aren't doing enough to prevent or measure potential hearing loss, and there hasn't been an easy, private way for people to test their own hearing performance - until now."

Younger adults (ages 18-34) are most at risk - 30 percent admitted they expose themselves to potential hearing damage at least once per day. As well, 84 percent said they've turned up their MP3 player to block out noise in everyday situations such as at home, on the street, or while on transportation - ignoring the recommended 60/120 rule: listen at 60 percent of the maximum volume for up to 120 minutes; any more can lead to permanent hearing loss.

"Hearing loss has a direct impact on quality of life - from listening to your favourite band on the radio, holding a conversation with your family, or simply being aware of your environment. Yet, as the survey shows, it's one of the most overlooked aspects of people's health; one third of North Americans haven't tested their hearing in over 10 years," says Cameron Hay, President and CEO of Unitron. "Whether it's for themselves, their parents, or their children, we developed uHear to give people an easy way to take the first step towards healthy hearing."

Other interesting survey results include:

- Men do more damage, but take better care - 58% of males exposed themselves to potential hearing damage at least once per week versus only 41% of females, yet more than double the number often or always wear hearing protection (18% v. 8%), and 17% more males than females have had their hearing tested in the last five years (48% v. 31%).

- Home Sweet Home? - survey results show noise at home is on par with noise on the subway, with 33% of respondents saying they've turned up their MP3 player to block out noise, both at home and while on transportation.

- Older people forego protection - at 70%, the 55+ age group had highest response to never wearing hearing protection, compared to 55% of 34-55 year olds and 54% of 18-34 year olds.

About uHear

Designed by Unitron, uHear(TM) is a hearing loss screening test which enables you to test your hearing on your own time, in your own space. Available for download on iTunes(R) for 99 cents, uHear helps you assess whether your hearing is within normal range, through any one or all three of the following tests: Hearing Sensitivity, Speech in Noise and a Common Listening situations questionnaire. Net proceeds of uHear will be donated by Unitron to charities that support hearing loss awareness and education. If you already have iTunes and you are located in Canada, you can click here to download uHear. If you are located in the US, click here to download uHear.

If you do not have iTunes, you can access uHear off of the apple.com/itunes website by following links to the appstore/medical/uHear

About Unitron

Unitron is a global innovator of technologically advanced hearing instruments. We care deeply about people with hearing loss and work closely with hearing healthcare professionals to make advanced, purpose-driven solutions available to everyone. Headquartered in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada; Unitron, a member of the Sonova Group, meets the needs of customers through 16 international offices and through distributors in a further 53 countries. For more information, please visit us on the web at www.unitron.com.

About the Survey

From April 8 to April 14, 2009, Angus Reid Strategies conducted an online survey on behalf of Unitron among a randomly selected, representative sample of 1,000 adult Americans and 1,003 adult Canadians. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20, and within each country the margin of error is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the latest Canadian and American Census data for age, gender, region and education to ensure a representative sample of the entire adult population of North America (the United States and Canada).

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