26 September 2019

The profound cost of deafness

Dr David Greenberg, Founder and CEO of Eave, shares his very personal story on the impact of hearing loss.

With over 10 years’ experience practising as a Clinical and Research Audiologist, I have seen first-hand the profound isolation and loneliness caused by hearing loss. I have had patients who have given up careers,  developed depression, and who have simply lost the joy of human interaction as a result of their hearing loss. 

But my reason for starting Eave was an even more personal one: my grandmother. 

Audrey Greenberg worked in a munitions factory in the East End of London during World War II. Her vital work making munitions was also incredibly noisy work, and tragically it caused her to lose her hearing. For the whole of the time I knew her, she wore two hearing aids just to get by. 

Grandma Audrey was what you would call a real matriarch – she was always cooking for everyone, one of those people who was full of motivation. And yet, in family situations where there was a lot of noise, she would fade into the background because she simply could not hear what was going on – a retreat from social situations that was completely contrary to her sociable nature. 

In the end, her hearing loss led to the development of dementia. We are now learning that this is a condition that is strongly linked to the social isolation caused by hearing loss, which means it is entirely preventable. It was terribly sad for my family and particularly distressing for me in my profession as an audiologist as I felt completely at a loss to help her. 

Today, Eave has developed the technology that would have prevented my grandmother from losing her hearing. Yet, across the country, millions of workers just like her – in construction, manufacturing and utilities – are working in high-risk, noisy environments every day. 

We also know that some nine million people in the UK are deaf, according to the British Deaf Association, and that occupational deafness is the most commonly reported workplace disease. 

THIS was the motivation behind Eave. Our mission is to stem the tide of this debilitating condition, so that people like my grandmother can go on living life to the full. 

More than that, at Eave our philosophy is not simply to help workplaces to conform to basic standards and regulations – these should be viewed as a baseline for compliance – but to truly understand and work to solve the basis of the problem the regulations were established to prevent.

We know a lot more about the impact of noise on health now than we did in 1989, when the Noise at Work Regulations were first written, and even since 2005 when they were rewritten. Eave products also bring together many other advancements since that time, in wireless technologies, cloud computing, digital signal processing and materials science. 

All this enables our customers to take their responsibility for their workers’ hearing as seriously as it deserves to be. Our hearing is absolutely central to our experience of being alive – let’s work together to protect it.