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Facts about hearing and hearing loss.

The generation most affected by hearing loss are the baby boomers.

Fact 1: Hearing loss doesn’t just affect old people

Across the world, over 1 billion people are affected by hearing loss. Most of us believe this problem only affects older adults. In reality, more people born in the 1950s and 60s experience hearing loss than any other age group. Ten million baby boomers in the US alone have mild to severe hearing loss. In comparison, 9 million people over the age of 65 have trouble hearing.

Environmental noise

Experts agree that the increase in hearing problems is due to the steady rise in environmental noise. From loud music at rock concerts and discos (during our younger years) to increased traffic noise, we have a lot of reasons why our hearing is getting worse.

This alarming trend appears to be even more severe among baby boomers’ children. Increased environmental noise and the widespread use of headphones have been blamed for this tendency. Technology may have its positive results, but more noise isn’t one of them. The human hearing apparatus can only take so much.

Did you know?

People with hearing loss often avoid company. Fortunately, modern hearing aids can be used in sports and activities.

Fact 2: How you hear depends on where you are.

Even though you might not notice, you experience a series of different listening situations every day. Wind and traffic can create significant noise outdoors. Even indoors, it’s almost never quiet when several people get together, not to mention the permanent background noise in a big office. Computers hum, phones ring and copiers make repetitive sounds. The denser the “soundscape,” the harder it is to hear and understand speech – especially for those with hearing loss.

Hearing loss goes far beyond just making sounds seem softer. It also blurs sounds together making it hard for you to capture what the other person is saying. The P, K, F, H, T, Th, Sh and S sounds are especially affected which may limit speech comprehension. For example, when you go out to a restaurant, if many people talk at once, you may get lost in the conversation.

Different listening situations

Fact 3: Two ears work better than one.

Hearing aids are typically fitted to both ears to treat hearing impairment. Here are two reasons why:

Reason 1: Directional hearing. When you hear something, you usually know right away which direction the sound comes from. This works because sound waves reach one ear a fraction of a second before the other. Your brain’s auditory response area uses this information to calculate direction. Spatial hearing - which experts call binaural hearing - is an important safety mechanism that warns you of approaching vehicles when crossing the street.

Reason 2: Sound quality. Sound quality improves when heard with two ears. Even for those without impaired hearing, speech heard with only one ear may sound flat and emotionless.