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March 21, 2005

Newer hearing aids designed to appeal to boomers

From: Fort Wayne News Sentinel, IN - Mar 21, 2005

BY JAN JARVIS Knight Ridder Newspapers

(KRT) - All you baby boomers, listen up: It might be time to get fitted for a hearing aid.

Half the nation's nearly 76 million baby boomers are experiencing some hearing loss, according to a study by the EAR Foundation and Clarity, a supplier of amplified devices.

Rock concerts are often to blame, along with noise from car engines, jet planes and lawn equipment.

One-time exposure to a loud noise is not as bad as repeated exposure, such as listening to music on headphones eight hours a day, said Carsten Trads, president of Clarity.

In a study of 437 baby boomers, 51 percent attributed their hearing problems to noise pollution. Aging was the next most common cause reported.

Admitting that they have trouble hearing has not come easily to the baby boomers, who are 40 to 59 years old. Only a third of the people surveyed had gotten their hearing tested.

New technology has led to hearing aids that suit baby boomers' needs.

"The technology really has improved in the past five to 10 years so that today's hearing aid is not your father's hearing aid," said Dr. Peter Roland, chairman of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

The latest hearing aids are small enough to be hidden behind or inside the ear. They also filter out bothersome background noise and make listening more comfortable.

Digital hearing aids with directional microphones give people more control over what they hear.

The devices can distinguish the differences between various sounds and deliver what people want, which is to be able to hear what someone is saying at a restaurant.

"The new digital processing circuits tell the difference between dishes crashing to the floor and speech sounds," Roland said.


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