Published on August 31st, 2015


The Canadian Health Measures Survey: A Source of Nationally Representative Hearing Data

By Statistics Canada’s Canadian Health Measures Survey Team

For the first time, Statistics Canada has released results on the prevalence of hearing loss in Canada. The results indicates that one in five adults in Canada has some degree of hearing loss, in April 2015. This article explains how the survey information is collected.

Launched in 2007, the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) is an ongoing national survey that collects key information relevant to the health of Canadians through direct physical measurements, such as a hearing assessment, blood pressure, height, weight and overall physical fitness. The survey also collects blood and urine samples to test for infectious diseases, nutrition and environmental contaminants, and analyses indoor air and tap water from respondents’ households.

A Statistics Canada interviewer collects information from a respondent.

How the Survey Is Conducted

The CHMS consists of three main components:

1. Household Interview

For this component, an interviewer visits randomly selected households to collect information related but not limited to nutrition, smoking habits, alcohol use, medical history, current health status, lifestyle and physical activity, living environment and housing characteristics, as well as demographic and socio-economic variables.

2. Clinic Visit

This component of the CHMS takes place in mobile clinics (trailers). Respondents usually visit the clinic within a few days of their household interview. During the clinic visit, qualified health measures specialists take respondents’ physical measurements, such as a hearing assessment, height, weight and blood pressure.

3. Laboratory Analysis

The survey team collects blood and urine samples at the clinic to test for cardiovascular health, nutritional status, chronic and infectious diseases and environmental contaminants. Some samples are used for tests right away and others are stored in the CHMS ‘biobank’. In some cycles, the survey collects indoor air and tap water samples from the participants’ homes.

Hearing Assessment

The hearing assessment, which took place during cycle 3 (2012-2013) and cycle 4 (2014-2015) of the survey, includes the following four tests: visual inspection of the outer ear using an otoscope, eardrum flexibility test using a tympanometer, distortion product otoacoustic emission test conducted in a soundproof booth and an audiometric evaluation conducted in a soundproof booth.

The purpose of the hearing assessment is to gather nationally-representative data on the hearing status of Canadians. This includes the prevalence of hearing loss and the relationships between hearing loss and other factors, such as exposure to noise in the workplace and during leisure time.

Hearing Data

Statistics Canada recently released two publications using CHMS hearing data from cycle 3:

  1. Fact sheet: Canadian Health Measures Survey: Hearing loss of Canadians, 2012 and 2013
  2. Research article: Prevalence of hearing loss among Canadians aged 20 to 79

We encourage researchers to do further analysis using the CHMS cycle 3 hearing microdata currently available, in conjunction with other CHMS data in Statistics Canada’s Research Data Centres.

Access to CHMS Microdata and Biospecimens

The main data access route for researchers wanting access to CHMS microdata is Statistics Canada’s Research Data Centre (RDC) Program. With an approved agreement, researchers can access the microdata at one of over 25 secure RDCs located at universities across Canada. More information on the RDC Program is available at

To gain access to stored CHMS blood, urine and DNA samples, researchers are invited to submit an application form during the biennial CHMS biobank call for proposals (May to June and November to December). Details, including an informational video, are available on the biobank website.

As the biospecimens are an invaluable but finite (non-renewable) source of information, Statistics Canada has established a thorough review process to grant researchers access to the biospecimens. Once access is granted and researchers have completed their data analysis, they will have exclusive access to a data file for one year before the file becomes available to other researchers in the Research Data Centres (RDCs).

For more information about the CHMS or accessing the biobank, please contact Statistics Canada:

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