The baby boomers have been a force in society for half a century. They have dictated the changes in lifestyles and attitudes and consumer patterns. As far as their hearing loss is concerned, they came of age when the first U.S. president of their generation, Bill Clinton, was fitted with two hi-tech digital hearing aids in 1997, primarily for use at ceremonies and political gatherings where he found it hard to distinguish sounds.
Like so many others of his generation, Clinton attributes his hearing loss to the noisy rock concerts he attended through the years and, in his case, the music he played with his saxophone and in school bands. The former president shares his hearing fate with numerous famous, some infamous and many little known rock musicians and even more classical musicians. In Canada, 37 % of rock musicians and 52% of classical musicians are affected by at least some hearing loss, according to the Musician's Clinics of Canada. And among the rock stars inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 60% are hearing impaired.
While few doubt the harmful effects of the music volume being turned up in the 1960s, the warped eardrums of the Woodstock crowd are only a part of the story. Noise levels are up everywhere, from the hair dryers after the morning shower to the garden leaf blower, the lawn mower, the snowmobile, the jet ski, the shooting range, the walkman, the motorcycle, the freeway traffic, the sporting events, the eight speaker car stereos and the evening movie entertainment with booming surround sound speakers in the home.
More noise risks abound in the work place, too. Among those facing daily noise hazards are firefighters, police officers, factory workers, farmers, teachers, construction workers, military personnel, heavy industry workers, musicians and entertainment industry professionals. According to industry studies cited by WebMD, 44% of carpenters and 48% of plumbers complain of hearing problems, and 90% of coal miners are hearing impaired by the age of 52.
Everyone exposed to it is affected by the noise, but a small minority of the baby boomers is particularly susceptible to hearing damage because they are genetically disposed to it.
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