A hearing aid practitioner who recently quit the profession says he did so as a form of protest over what he calls lax oversight of the industry — a situation which he believes is putting people at risk for serious health problems.
Ron Schick, who ended a 14-year career fitting hearing aids last fall, says he has seen clients with dangerous medical conditions, including seizures and a brain tumour, which were overlooked by other hearing aid practitioners.
In one case, Schick said he encountered a 90-year-old man who was suffering an ear infection that was ignored.
"There was pus, blood, [and a] severe middle ear infection," Schick told CBC News Tuesday.
Schick said despite the obvious problem, another practitioner adjusted the man's hearing aid.
'It was very, very difficult when you're dealing with such a vulnerable sector of society.'—Ex-hearing aid practitioner Ron Schick
"The daughter told me that this other person had basically said the hearing aid was too tight and ground down the hearing aid and put it back in this fellow's ear."
Schick believes Saskatchewan needs better oversight of the industry, especially when it comes to standards for practitioners.
The province has been promising for two years to improve regulations, in the interest of public safety.
Schick supports that but is concerned nothing has changed. He notes other provinces require a two-year course before opening a business.
Government working on rules
On Tuesday, the government responded to concerns about the hearing aid industry by saying it is trying to find a balance between the proper educational requirements and the experience of those already working in this province.
Schick said the priority should be on patients.
"When you look at the population — 350,000 to 400,000 seniors — compared to half a dozen business owners, I really questioned which area the government should be looking at protecting," Schick said.
The province said it expects to have new rules out by the summer.
Schick said his income dropped by half after leaving the industry.
He said he couldn't take the emotional toll of working in a field that functioned with minimal training.
"It was really starting to get to me," Schick said. "It was very, very difficult when you're dealing with such a vulnerable sector of society and you see this going on and there's not really much protection in place."
He said he spent the last ten years sharing his concerns with a variety of government officials.
"Nothing was being done," he said.