Already, there are more baby boomers suffering from moderate and severe hearing loss (10 million) than there are hearing impaired Americans above the age of 65 (9 million). The increase in hearing loss is seen as a result of increasingly noisy life-styles and a noisy environment, and it is a trend that continues among the children of the baby boom generation. While the number of people aged between 46 and 64 with hearing loss increased by 26% between 1971 and 1990, the number of hearing impaired 18-44 year-olds increased by 17%.
Not all hearing specialists see the statistics derived from the National Health Interview Survey as proof that the general hearing ability is worsening from one generation to the next. Instead, some claim that the boomers are just more demanding when it comes to health, that they have higher expectations than prior generations and that they are more likely to complain about their hearing and take action to have their hearing loss diagnosed and treated.
Whatever the conclusions, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that baby boomers in growing numbers are seeking the assistance of their physicians and of audiologists to find ways to cope with hearing impairment. Like other age groups, the baby boomers fear the stigma of being seen to be old if they wear hearing aids. They wait as long as other age groups - an average of seven or eight years - before they seek help. And fewer than 20% of baby boomers, who could benefit from hearing aids, actually wear them.
But nearly all baby boomers are still working. Most say they will keep working past retirement age. New hearing aid technology and miniaturization may be changing perceptions. And in the end, their active lifestyles may force them to make the choice to seek the best possible remedy for their hearing loss that many of their parents have not made.
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