Baby Boomers Listen Up
Ear Today, Gone Tomorrow
A Rocker's Story
That was true for Kathy Peck. As guitarist for a punk band in
the 1970s and 1980s, she regularly spent time on stage close to loudspeakers.
By the mid-1980s, "I realized I couldn't hear clearly what people were
saying," Peck says.
Her hearing loss prompted Peck and a friend, Flash Gordon, MD
(a physician, not the comic strip character), to establish HEAR (Hearing
Education and Awareness for Rockers). The organization seeks to inform
musicians and fans about the dangers of loud music and promotes the use of
earplugs at shows.
At the organization's clinic in San Francisco, Peck notices
more and more middle-aged adults with hearing problems coming in for help. And
she is reaching out to educate the boomers' children about the dangers of loud
recorded music at dance events, which are often more popular with today's youth
than live concerts.
What Can Be Done?
Even if there is already hearing loss, protecting the ears can
minimize further injury. Earplugs, sold in most drugstores, should be worn when
people are around loud power tools or attending loud concerts. Larger
earphone-like devices can help for especially loud tools, like leaf blowers,
When hearing loss is already severe, a hearing aid may be
One option is the new disposable hearing aid marketed by
Songbird Medical. The device lasts about 40 days, says company President and
CEO Frederick Fritz. And because the battery is built-in and discarded with the
device, the hearing aid doesn't have a battery door, standard on other hearing
aids. That allows room for a bigger microphone, which improves sound quality,
according to Fritz.
Like the disposable model, many other hearing aids now fit
completely in the ear canal, and are nearly invisible to other people. And
that, designers and ear specialists hope, may convince hard-of-hearing boomers
to do something about their problem -- without broadcasting their accumulation