Hearing Loss and The Boomers

IN 1965, PETE Townshend wrote and performed the song My Generation, venerating a generation that would reshape the world to come. Thousands of baby boomers rocked out to music like no other, driving their parents crazy and unknowingly affecting their lives forever.

Now, Pete and many members of the baby boomer generation are paying the price for listening to the loud music of their time.

Due to years of blaring amplifiers, crowd racket and other loud noises many musicians and concertgoers suffer from hearing loss. While many may only be experiencing the first warning signs of damage – ringing or buzzing in the ear called tinnitus – others are experiencing hearing loss as well.  Performers are changing their lifestyles to avoid further damage. Former Genesis drummer and singer Phil Collins recently announced he will reduce his live stage appearances to avoid further hearing loss.

Everyday noise increases your risk

While it is true the likelihood of hearing loss increases as we age, it is a fact in the United States there are more people aged 45-65 (12.3 million) suffering from hearing loss than people over the age of 65 (11.6 million) with hearing loss. According to the National Institute on Deafness, more than 31 million Americans currently have some degree of hearing loss. Doctors, audiologists and researchers point to increasing levels of noise people are exposed to in their everyday lives as the direct cause for the increased incidence of hearing loss.

The impulse of most people when they develop tinnitus and hearing loss is to ignore it as long as possible. But that is a mistake. Hearing problems are disruptive. They make you cranky and rob you of the simple pleasure of watching a movie or having a normal telephone conversation. But the sooner you face up to dealing with hearing loss, the better.

These are not your father’s hearing aids

Numerous consumer surveys over the years have shown many people with hearing loss do not wear hearing aids because of the negative stigmas associated with their use. Recently, there have been two types of products introduced to the market that are in direct response to the stigmas associated with hearing aids. The first is the “Open Fit” hearing aid. This hearing aid consists of a miniature device that sits behind a user’s ear and has a thin tube directing sound into the ear canal. These hearing aids are called “Open Fit” because the user is able to benefit from amplified sound without having their ear “plugged-up.” The design of this device makes sound more natural to the user. Preliminary studies have shown that patient satisfaction for these types of devices is higher than with traditional hearing aids.

The other segment of hearing aids recently introduced to the  market contain  Bluetooth, a short range wireless technology, and are available from only a few hearing aid manufacturers at this time. These hearing aids were developed because of the increase in cell phone use in this country. In the past, cell phones and hearing aids did not interact well. For people who relied on cell phones, this was hug obstacle to successful hearing aid use. Fortunately, there are now hearing aid devices that directly communicate with cell phone via Bluetooth technology. For the working adult with hearing loss, this is a tremendous improvement in technology.

Originally Published on GRAND Magazine in July-August 2006 Issue

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