Members of the committee, it is a privilege to be invited to appear as a witness.
My name is Philippe Fournier. I am an audiologist and a professor and researcher in the rehabilitation department of the faculty of medicine at Université Laval. The objective of my research is to better understand the mechanisms and consequences of various hearing disorders, such as tinnitus, which takes the form of whistling or buzzing in the ears, hyperacusis, which is reported as hypersensitivity to loud sounds, and other symptoms such as the feeling of having blocked ears and ear pain.
Because of my research in this field, I have an interest in the population of interpreters who reported experiencing these symptoms following brief, loud and unexpected acoustic events. Although there is no clear consensus, acoustic shock is generally defined as the appearance of auditory and otologic symptoms such as tinnitus, hyperacusis and pain, following brief, loud and unexpected exposure to a sound. The symptoms may appear immediately or after several days or even weeks. It should be noted that the nature and intensity of the symptoms vary widely from one individual to another. This phenomenon was first described among call centre operators. They reported the appearance of distressing symptoms following acoustic incidents in their listening device system. The pathophysiological mechanisms responsible for the appearance of these symptoms are unknown at present.
In the course of my research, I have collaborated with the International Association of Conference Interpreters and the Translation Bureau of Canada. They have reported a rise in the prevalence of these symptoms among interpreters since the start of the pandemic, and, coincidentally, after web conferencing platforms started to be used. The phenomenon at the source of this increase is not known, although various hypotheses have been formulated.
I am also collaborating at present on a research project with the aim of assessing the hearing health of Translation Bureau interpreters. The project is led by my colleague Josée Lagacé, who is a professor at the University of Ottawa, and her team.
I am prepared to answer all questions that committee members ask me today as best I can, based on my knowledge.