Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss

More baby boomers showing signs of hearing loss.

  • More than 31.5 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss—approximately one in 10 individuals. It may reach 44 million by 2030. Much of that looming surge is a baby-boomer phenomenon.
  • Among Americans ages 46 to 64, about 15 percent already have hearing problems, according to a survey by the Better Hearing Institute.
  • Two out of three people with hearing loss are below retirement age.
  • Sixty percent of people with hearing loss are male.
  • Only 12 percent of physicians today ask patients if they have any hearing problems.
  • Only one in five people who could benefit from hearing devices currently wear them.

Hearing loss doesn’t just affect hearing.

  • Hearing loss is associated with short-term memory loss. According to a recent study at Brandeis University, older adults with mild to moderate hearing loss expended so much cognitive energy on trying to hear accurately that it diminished their ability to remember a short word list. As a result, their cognitive functioning was poorer than those individuals of the same age that had good hearing.
  • Hearing loss leads to stress and fatigue because it requires so much effort to listen to what someone is saying—particularly in a noisy setting.
  • The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) reported that hearing loss in older persons can have a significant negative impact on quality of life. In the NCOA’s survey of 2,300 hearing-impaired adults, age 50 or older, those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia and less likely to participate in organized activities, compared to those who wore hearing aids.
  • People with untreated hearing loss make, on average, up to $12,000 per year less than their counterparts who have treated their hearing loss with hearing aids. Wearing hearing aids mitigates the loss in earnings about 50 percent.

But progress is being made on many fronts.

  • Advances in digital technology have dramatically improved hearing aids—they are smaller than ever with far better sound quality.
  • Top-of-the-line models feature "directional" or "high definition" hearing. These devices use two microphones and an algorithm to enhance sound coming from the front (the person you are talking to), while tuning down sound coming from behind (the rest of the noisy party).
  • The creation of devices using Bluetooth communication technology can turn select hearing aids into wireless, hands-free headsets.
  • A promising advancement related to the use of Bluetooth technology is the ability to make hearing aids compatible with cell phones, currently of serious concern to hearing aid users.
  • Nine out of ten hearing aid users report improvements in their quality of life, according to a survey by the Better Hearing Institute of more than 2,300 consumers.