18 Apr Hear the Boom
Thanks to the baby boomers, hearing aids have taken a new and exciting path of development. Today’s hearing aids are designed to meet the needs of the largest group of all time – the technologically savvy, health conscious baby boomers. For example, never before has there been as much enthusiasm over a new hearing aid as there is today over the Open Ear hearing aid. It is a small, inconspicuous hearing device that sounds natural and has a wide range of features.
We all need to hear to stay competitive in the work force. Boomers are remaining in the workforce longer and in different capacities such as through phased retirement, part time work or consulting. Conventional wisdom is that retirement is a time to scale back and take life as it comes. Today, boomers are instead accepting new challenges later in life. It follows that, the more active and outgoing the person, the more demands are placed on their hearing.
It has been estimated that today’s boomers will experience more hearing loss, and at an earlier age, compared to their parents. Not only did a large number of boomers grow up enjoying the louder music of the 1950’s and 1960’s, today’s world has much more invasive noise such as music, industrial workplace noise, urban noise, etc. Our ears are constantly being assaulted by noise and noise can contribute to hearing loss.
The typical hearing loss of a boomer may be a difficulty hearing speech in the presence of background noise, such as in a restaurant or car. Another example is one’s ability to hear speech in a quiet room or setting, but at the same time experiencing some difficulty hearing a soft or high pitched voice, such as many children’s or women’s voices. Hearing loss will gradually worsen as the years progress, and may first be recognized as a hearing problem by someone else, such as a spouse or colleague. Research has shown that, when a hearing loss is present or suspected it takes the average person 7 years to seek hearing help. Sadly, only 25% of those with a diagnosed hearing loss will actually acquire the technology that will help them to hear better.
Today’s Open Ear hearing aid has quite a trendy look and it is available in many colors, from silver to champagne to a racy leopard print. For the more discrete person, the aid practically “disappears” into the ear canal and with all the color choices it can blend in with a person’s hair or skin tones. If desired, an Open Ear hearing aid can look more like “ear gear”, fitting in nicely with today’s popular trend of wearing something in, or connected to, the ear. Think of iPods, MP3 players, cell phones with blue tooth technology, or blackberries. All of these popular items are worn uncovered and unhidden and they are treated as stylish by a very youthful generation. No longer do hearing aids have a negative stigma, as many people wear their aids proudly and are delighted by the benefits of better hearing. Like wearing eye glasses to help with reading, a hearing aid is a mainstream way of dealing with an age-related hearing loss.
Not only does an Open Ear hearing aid look good but it works great too. Due to the open fit design which does not block the ear canal, there is no feeling of being “plugged up” and the sound of one’s own voice is natural and not hollow. Open fittings allow environmental sounds to pass naturally through your ear canal, as if hearing aids are not being worn. The advanced digital models of Open Ear hearing aids use DSP or Digital Sound Processing. This DSP feature continuously processes incoming sounds and provides clear, distortion-free hearing. Thanks also to sophisticated feedback cancellation technology the squealing hearing aid is also a thing of the past.
Hearing aid manufacturers are making the choice of hearing aids more convenient for today’s boomers by including a wide range of available features. Hearing aids may be equipped with multiple programs for different listening environments such as a program for hearing in the car, at a restaurant or on a cell phone. Directional microphones help to filter out unwanted background noise and to enhance speech. Many models come with a remote control that helps the hearing aid user have even more precise control over what they want to hear. Blue tooth technology makes possible, communication between a hearing aid and other devices, such as an iPod or cell phone.
The more progressive boomers are viewing themselves and others who wear hearing aids as more able to embrace change and adapt to their changing bodies. It is not appropriate behaviour to look passively in response to something that was said but not heard, or even worse, to routinely misinterpret what was said. A good hearing aid allows for normal social interaction. We all live in a competitive world where a slight reduction in hearing acuity can diminish our chances for success, can affect how we are perceived by others, can affect our quality of life and can impact our emotions. If any group in history understands the many pressures of living in such a competitive world, it’s the boomers. They will provoke many changes, and in the hearing aid industry, they already have.