Baby boomers encouraged to address hearing loss early

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Professional Hearing Health Centers and Audiology Clinics are focusing their efforts to encourage baby boomers to have their hearing checked early, so they can better manage the quality of life issues that often result from unaddressed hearing loss.

Baby boomers—those born between 1947 and 1964—may be particularly susceptible to hearing loss because of their lifelong exposure to loud music and other noises, according to Donald Kleindl, A.C.A., N.B.C., H.I.S., M.C.A.P., audioprosthologist and executive director of professional Hearing Health Centers and Audiology Clinics.

“Research shows that when people cannot hear properly their inability to hear can disrupt their jobs, family life, and other relationships,” says Kleindl. “The good news is that hearing loss can be easily diagnosed, and for most people, there are solutions in the form of digital and programmable hearing aids, many of which are not visible.”

“Many people associate hearing loss with advancing age,” explains Kleindl. “But hearing loss also is associated with exposure to loud noises—something that some baby boomers have faced since childhood. About two out of three people with hearing loss are below retirement age.”

Close to 15 percent of baby boomers—ages 41 to 59—already have a hearing loss.

That number will undoubtedly grow. What’s more, the challenge of acknowledging and addressing a hearing loss is something more and more baby boomers are willing to take on—rather than allow it to take a toll on their active personal and professional lives.

Symptoms of hearing loss include not being able to hear well in a crowded room or restaurant, having to ask friends to repeat what they are saying, or not being able to hear sounds others seem to be able to hear better.

Surveys published by the Better Hearing Institute, a not-for-profit organization that educates the public about the neglected problem of hearing loss and what can be done about it, have found that:

1. An overwhelming majority (93 percent) of consumers with hearing devices say the devices have improved their quality of life.

2. Eighty-five percent (85 percent) say they are satisfied with the benefits they get from hearing aids.

3. Specific improvements associated with better hearing health include more effective communications (71 percent), better social life (56 percent), better relationships at home (55 percent) and in the work place (48 percent), improved emotional health (40 percent), improved mental/cognitive ability (35 percent), and better physical health (24 percent).

4. Ninety percent (90 percent) of the respondents said their hearing aids improved communication in one-on-one situations, while more than eight out of 10 were satisfied by the instruments’ performance in small groups and while watching television. Three of four respondents were satisfied with their hearing aids when outdoors, while listening to music, while participating in leisure activities, in the car, at a house of worship and in a restaurant.

Founded in 1952 with 12 clinics based in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, Professional Hearing Health Centers and Audiology Clinics is working to promote treatment of hearing loss and erase the stigma and embarrassment that prevents millions of people from seeking help for their hearing loss.

“Too many people cling to the old, stubborn belief that wearing a hearing aid won’t help fix their hearing problems,” says Kleindl. “We hope people, especially baby boomers, understand that hearing aids work better than ever, and can dramatically improve the quality of their lives.

“Today’s baby boomers are active, involved individuals. With the technology currently available, and with what we see on the horizon, there are many exciting options that will allow America’s baby boomers to stay connected—in every sense of the word.”

from the June 6-12, 2007, issue

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