Along with other challenges of middle age, baby boomers may be experiencing hearing loss without realizing it. A lifetime of exposure to loud music, traffic sounds and crowd noise begins to take its toll in mid-life, and the changes can be subtle.
Hearing loss happens gradually. People may notice they aren’t as comfortable participating in activities as they were before, but they don’t necessarily connect it to their hearing. Or they may be feeling anxiety or depression and again, they don’t associate that with a possible hearing loss.
Aging often brings hearing loss at higher frequencies. Vowels are spoken at lower frequencies, while consonants are at higher frequencies, and that’s why people with hearing loss sometimes only hear parts of sentences.
It’s not just baby boomers who are coping with hearing issues. Between 15 and 17 percent of today’s college-age adults have a hearing loss, compared with 10 percent of the general population. The hearing loss among younger people seems to be linked to the use of MP3 player earbuds, which direct sound right into the ear canal. Audiologists suggest keeping the volume low enough in earbuds that the person next to the listener can’t hear the sound.
If a hearing loss is suspected, an audiologist or hearing aid professional can conduct a complete hearing evaluation. Many studies have shown that the early detection and treatment of hearing loss, often through the use of adopting hearing aids, slows down the digression of speech recognition. This is important as, the loss of speech recognition, prevents people from hearing perfectly clearly even after hearing aids are adopted.
As a general rule of thumb hearing professionals are asking family physicians to include hearing exams as a standard part of all annual physical exams on their patients 60 years of age and older.