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Do Baby Boomers Fear Hearing Loss? No Way, Man!

Those of us born between 1945 and 1965, aka baby boomers, have been the most studied generation ever. And the surveys continue as boomers move toward retirement and those long-sought golden years. One such recently-released survey, conducted by Energizer (makers of batteries including hearing aid batteries), indicates that those between the ages of 50 and 70 have apparent contradictory views on hearing loss.

Approximately 10% of the total U.S. population experiences hearing loss. Thats 28 million people straining to hear the TV. And despite the constant pleas to Turn it down! the facts, uncovered during the Energizer survey, indicate that most boomers believe that regular hearing check-ups just arent important. Bummer.

Every year, May is Better Hearing and Speech month. Its the time hearing health professionals and the media raise awareness of the significance of hearing loss, precautions to prevent hearing loss and what can be done about it once its occurred. Hearing screening tests are also offered free of charge. In fact, these screenings are so important that many organizations and hearing aid manufacturers hold them throughout the year. Check the paper and whats going on at the local mall. Thats where free hearing tests are often conducted.

Lets Crunch the Numbers
A total of 500 people between the ages of 50 and 70 were surveyed about all aspects of hearing loss everything from how they feel about hearing aids to the importance of detecting and preventing hearing loss. The results of the study, announced by Energizer, indicate a wide gap between those who worry about hearing loss (remember, respondents are the original users of headphones for listening to 10 minute drum solos) and those who take proactive steps to prevent and address hearing loss.

In fact, the disconnect is somewhat startling. 67.1% of respondents said they were concerned about hearing loss. However, only 30% felt it was important to actually visit a hearing health professional for a hearing test. More numbers? Just 11.5% of those surveyed indicated that theyd been screened for hearing loss within the past 12 months. Therefore, 88.5% of boomers are overdue for a hearing check-up. Now, what would Mom say?

Its Not Just About Facing the Music
Serge Traylor is concerned about hearing health. Hes the Brand Manager of Hearing Aid Batteries at Energizer and as such, the man knows the problems associated with hearing loss and getting those boomers to a hearing health professional. In an interview shortly after the results of the survey were released, Mr. Traylor provided HealthyHearing.com an exclusive interview to discuss the results of the survey and their significance.

Most of the general population believes that hearing loss is about listening to music with ear buds at loud volumes, Mr. Traylor began, but this is the first generation thats been exposed to increased sound levels across the board. The Energizer spokesperson referred to lawn mowers, motorcycles, more cars in smaller spaces and other ambient sounds that have affected the hearing of the 50 to 70-year-old segment of the population.

In order to detect hearing loss among this segment (the boomers) we need to see increased cooperation between manufacturers of hearing devices and audiologists (professionals in diagnosing and treating hearing loss), Mr. Traylor continued. We also must eliminate the stigma associated with wearing a hearing aid. People arent uncomfortable wearing glasses but our survey reveals that hearing aids make people feel old. This need for a change in attitude is one that Energizer is taking on directly.

We believe that hearing education, easy accessibility to screening services, Energizers Healthy Hearing campaign, and similar efforts on the part of hearing device makers, will eliminate much of the stigma now associated with the use of hearing aids.

One of the goals of the Energizer Healthy Hearing campaign is to educate the public on the need for regular hearing screenings for the early detection of hearing loss. This includes hearing loss tips on the Energizer web site and distribution of educational materials through the media.

Assisting with the development of the surveys questions was Dr. Michael Valente, Director of the Division of Adult Audiology at the Washington School of Medicine located in St. Louis. Dr. Valente makes a very interesting point in Energizers release to the media. In it, he points out that, since most people with hearing impairments hear well in the quiet environment like a doctors office, it can be virtually impossible for a physician to recognize the extent of the patients problem. Without special training and an understanding of the nature of hearing loss, it may be difficult for a doctor to even realize that [the patient] has a hearing problem.

What makes Dr. Valentes observation even more unsettling is the fact that the Energizer survey Dr. Valente helped author indicates that seven out of 10 respondents would visit their family doctor if they suspected hearing loss. Only 44% of respondents indicated that they would visit an audiologist a professional trained in the detection and treatment of hearing impairment.

In other words, too many people with hearing impairment are seeing the wrong professional. Family doctors and internists are generalists in health matters. In cases of hearing loss, patients need to see a specially trained professional to determine the extent of hearing loss and available treatments including the use of a hearing aid.

Eliminating the stigma of wearing a hearing aid is one consideration. Another is comfort and ease of use. Energizer recently introduced its EZ Change line of batteries to simplify battery changes in hearing aids. These are small batteries, as you might expect, and older people have had problems changing batteries in their devices. Our EZ Change packaging allows the hearing aid user to change batteries without ever touching the battery itself. Anne Bannister, Energizers Director of Marketing for Special Batteries pointed out that, We want to educate people about hearing loss prevention, as well as provide solutions for others to manage their hearing health, so they can keep going and live active, enjoyable lifestyles.

Simplified packaging that takes the fuss out of swapping batteries for hearing devices is just one more step in managing healthy hearing and making hearing aid use easier a goal of Energizer and all hearing device manufacturers.

Finally, as part of the Energizer Healthy Hearing campaign, the battery manufacturer continues to support the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), a not-for-profit organization made up of hearing professionals and other industry leaders.

For additional information on hearing loss and finding an audiologist in your area, visit the ASHA web site at asha.org. Or, visit the Find a Professional section at HealthyHearing.com, which lists dozens of hearing healthcare options all in one place.

If youre a baby boomer, theres a good chance that youve experienced some degree of hearing loss attending those Pink Floyd concerts back in the day. Coupled with the general increase in noise levels in our lives, its a problem that can get worse.

The bottom line? If you havent had your hearing checked by a certified hearing professional, its time to make the appointment. It doesnt hurt at all, so no worries, there. Its also important to recognize that its never too late to mitigate a hearing impairment through the use of state-of-the art digital technology now available in almost every contemporary hearing aid.

So dont wait. Track down an audiologist in your area and just do it.

Its what every Mom would recommend for all of us.

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