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The Ohio Department of Aging

Ohio Department of Aging Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

My Life - October 2010

"I'm sorry, what did you say?"
How important is your hearing to you?

Boomers will spend more than $4 billion this year on anti-aging solutions and treatments, and account for the majority of laser vision correction procedures currently being performed. The sports and fitness industry is counting on boomers to lead a surge in sales in the coming years. So, why is it that boomers are so willing to do what it takes to look, see and feel younger, but often ignore things we could be doing to hear better?

Nearly 36 million American adults have some degree of hearing loss.According to the National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders, nearly 36 million American adults have some degree of hearing loss. The Better Hearing Institute (betterhearing.org) estimates that number will reach 44 million in the next two decades, and about one in seven people age 46 to 64 already have hearing problems. According to a survey by the makers of Energizer Batteries, 72 percent of baby boomers said that their hearing loss has affected their relationships with others, yet only 11 percent use hearing aids to compensate.

But, it's not all doom and gloom. Societal improvements, such as the gradual shift from industrial jobs to quieter, white-collar professions, and the increased use of antibiotics to prevent diseases and infections that may damage hearing, mean that boomers are about 31 percent less likely to experience hearing loss than their parents. Further, treatment for hearing loss has advanced in leaps in bounds in the last few decades. Today's hearing aids are smaller than ever with far better sound quality and technological advances such as high definition audio and Bluetooth connectivity. Nine out of 10 hearing aid users report improved quality of life.

The most obvious issue with hearing loss is its impact on communication. We live in an increasingly connected society and the ability to communicate is crucial to stay connected to loved ones and have access to the news and information we need. According to the National Council on Aging, people age 50 and older with untreated hearing loss were more likely to experience depression, anxiety and paranoia, and less likely to participate in organized activities than those who wore hearing aids.

But, it can affect you in other ways, as well. According to one study, hearing loss is associated with short-term memory loss because the listener expends more brain power on hearing accurately and has less available for retention. Hearing loss also leads to stress and fatigue as the listener has to struggle to hear what someone else is saying. But perhaps the most startling statistic is that adults with untreated hearing loss earn an average of $12,000 less per year than their counterparts who use hearing aids.

While hearing aids cannot cure hearing loss, they can improve your hearing and listening abilities. Most often, hearing lost cannot be recovered. Seeking the advice of a qualified audiologist at the earliest signs of hearing loss or, better, scheduling regular hearing exams before you experience problems, can help prevent serious hearing problems. Your audiologist will help determine if an aid can improve your hearing and, if warranted, help you select the right style and type of hearing aid.

Perhaps the biggest reason many give for not getting hearing aids is the cost. A good hearing aid can cost as much as a new washer and dryer or laptop computer. Yet, prices already have begun to fall as demand increases. Many insurance programs and Medicare Advantage plans will cover some or all of the cost of a hearing aid. Check with your benefits provider and your audiologist about your payment options.

Hearing well is as important to your quality of life as looking and feeling well. Isn't it worth the same investment?