hearing loss is on the rise
for baby boomers

If you're a baby boomer, there's a good chance that you have some degree of hearing loss. Over 30 percent of people over 60 have hearing loss and it tends to be worse in men. The percentages jump to 50 for those over 75.

One of the most common causes of loss of hearing in baby boomers is age related, referred to as presbycusis.

Presbycusis usually worsens as one ages and is most commonly caused by age related changes in the inner ear. Factors that can influence its severity and progression include: exposure to loud noises on a regular basis, heredity, smoking, diet, various health conditions, and medications such as aspirin.

Hearing problems among baby boomers are higher than were ever reported for previous generations and the percentages are rising among the next generation. It's not surprising considering that we are the first to have been raised on rock music and other environmental noises that didn't exist before. The problem is further complicated with baby boomers because we refuse to accept that aging can effect us and too many of us are denying the signs.

Symptoms of presbycusis

  • Most people notice a problem when they begin having a difficulty hearing high frequency sounds. For example, the consonants s, z, t, f, and g are high frequency sounds. It may be difficult to distinguish between words that sound alike such “hill,” “fill” and “sill.
  • Some speech may sound muffled
  • It becomes harder to conduct a conversation when there is background noise
  • A female voice or a child's voice may be more difficult to hear than male voice due to the frequency
  • Can be accompanied by tinnitus, a persistent ringing or hissing sound in one or both ears

Other causes of hearing loss in baby boomers

  • Loud noises or music - over a period of time destroys cilia and causes permanent hearing loss.
  • Medications – ototoxic drugs can damage hearing and balance . They include aspirin (in large quantities), loop diuretics, aminoglycoside antibiotics, and certain chemotherapy drugs.
  • Earwax buildup – cerumen, better known as earwax tends to increase as people age. It acts to protect the ear from infection, but an accumulation of earwax in the ear canal prevents the conduction of sound waves. This is a temporary hearing loss and can be treated in a doctor's office.
  • Otosclerosis – hearing loss from abnormal bone growth in the ear. It can occur in the middle ear, preventing the stirrup (one of the ossicles) from vibrating properly. Otosclerosis can spread to the inner ear and cause nerve damage.
  • Heredity factors
  • Ear infections
  • Smoking
  • Diseases
  • Injury to the head or ears

How does poor hearing effect us?

Poor hearing can lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and senseless arguments.

Carrying on a conversation can get so difficult that one may prefer to be alone and thus cause isolation. A person who is alone too much can become depressed.

Poor hearing can cause others to think you are confused or mentally unstable when your answers to questions seem confused or you don't answer at all when spoken to.

Hearing problems can cause feelings of paranoia when you are constantly misunderstanding things that are said to you.

Not hearing well can be very exhausting when you are constantly straining to hear what is being said.

Serious problems can arise between spouses when one cannot hear the other properly. It can be very difficult on both parties and cause bitter friction when one person is constantly misunderstanding and the other has to repeat his/her words over and over.

Coming to grips with hearing problems

When hearing loss begins, it is only noticeable when there is a lot of background noise, like at a busy restaurant or party, or if the TV is turned on loud. A problem may not be even detected when you sit across from a person in an office or at a quiet restaurant. So before you say you know you have no hearing problems, be sure you're not fooling yourself.

  • Have your hearing tested properly by a licensed accredited audiologist.
  • Wear earplugs to minimize further damage when around loud noises such as concerts, parties and receptions, or places where loud tools are being operated.
  • Turn down the volume when listening to the stereo or using earphones. You can't reverse the loss, but you could stop any further damage.
  • If you think your hearing loss is severe enough to require a hearing aid, go to your doctor to rule out causes that can be corrected such as earwax or infections.

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