A New Generation with Hearing Loss
47% of those in the 65-80 age group who listened to loud music in their teens and twenties are experiencing hearing issues today.
- Hearing Loss in the Woodstock Generation
- Caring for Your Hearing Aids
- Hearing Loss and Depression
- Hearing Loss Support
Hearing Loss and Depression
that seeking treatment via a hearing device would make them look or feel “old.” As a result, many people never even bother to get their hearing tested, and even among those that do get diagnosed with a treatable form of hearing loss, only about 25 percent take action and acquire a hearing device.
What those who choose not to seek help may not realize is that hearing loss can lead to a whole host of other problems, and is closely related to one’s mental health. People with hearing loss often find communication difficult, and this can lead to stress, fatigue, and ultimately social isolation, especially in older adults. In fact, 1 in 5 older adults experiencing hearing loss also report a clinically relevant level of depression symptoms that would necessitate treatment, and moderate to severe clinical depression is nearly twice as prevalent amongst those 18 and older who have experienced
hearing loss (11.4%) versus those who have not (5.9%). This is an easy connection to grasp: if people feel more socially isolated because they cannot hear and understand what is being said around them, they are more likely not to participate in social interactions, or to become fatigued while trying to keep up. This stress and isolation can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and paranoia. And while the link between hearing loss and depression involves a myriad of factors that are often associated with aging and mental health in general, there is a growing amount of research showing that there is a connection between one’s ability to hear and communicate effectively and one’s quality of life. As mentioned, a large percentage of those who are experiencing hearing loss do nothing to address the problem, some out of denial, or vanity, or simply ignorance about how hearing loss can affect their holistic health. Getting your hearing tested and taking action to address hearing loss is the first step toward regaining a sense of confidence and social connection.
Cosh S, Helmer C, Delcourt C, Robins TG, Tully PJ. Depression in elderly patients with
hearing loss: current perspectives. Clin Interv Aging. 2019;14:1471-1480. Published 2019 Aug 14. doi:10.2147/CIA.S195824
Hearing Loss in the Woodstock Generation
Nearly 400,000 people attended the Woodstock festival in 1969 for three days of some of the most iconic music performances of all time. For some, Woodstock and the many festivals and rock concerts before and in its wake ignited a passion for live music that endures to this day. But just over 50 years removed from its namesake, the Woodstock Generation have now reached ages 65-80 and are starting to experience the consequences of years of exposure to loud, live music. A recent study by the Harris Poll revealed that 47% of those in the 65-80 age group who listened to loud music in their teens and twenties are experiencing hearing issues today. And many don’t even realize that their hearing is deteriorating.
Because loud noise-induced hearing loss comes on gradually, many do not notice their hearing getting worse or what sounds they are beginning to miss. Oftentimes they go undiagnosed or they are simply resigned to make do with the hearing they have left, which can severely affect quality of life or willingness to participate in social situations. Suddenly parties, restaurants, and club meetings can seem “too noisy” to be enjoyable, and rather than seeking diagnosis, some choose to just stay home. Communication with family can become challenging, as grandchildren with higher pitched voices and less-developed speech become a struggle to understand and decipher. These social interactions and familial communications are critical to keeping one’s brain engaged, exercised, and sharp, and their absence can result in a more isolated, sedentary lifestyle, putting one at risk for social entropy and cognitive decline.
Getting a hearing test is the first step toward resolving these issues by identifying the areas of hearing loss that need to be addressed. If warranted, being fitted for a hearing aid can reveal sounds that a person has not noticed they have not been hearing. For music lovers, pursuing this treatment can yield an almost transcendental and emotional experience when they can hear the music they love with a fidelity that may have been missing for years. Hearing the beauty of music one loves in its completeness, with every sound accounted for, has been a huge motivator for those that have grown up with music as a major part of their lives.
Unfortunately, hearing protection in the Woodstock Generation was not nearly as widespread as it is today, so many of that era have experienced and will continue to experience hearing loss as they age. Yet even with the prevalence and availability of quality ear protection today, many people young and old fail to protect themselves properly from noise-induced hearing damage. The same vanity or apathy that can keep older folks from seeking a hearing device can also prevent younger people from seeking hearing protection while attending loud festivals and concerts. Today, in most cases, hearing damage is irreversible, but taking care of your ears will allow you to enjoy the music you love for a lifetime. If you attend loud concerts, make sure to keep a safe distance from large speakers, wear earplugs, and periodically give your ears a break from sustained loud noise. And if you are experiencing hearing loss as a result of your youthful ignorance, do not let vanity or apathy prevent you from seeking treatment, as improving your ability to hear again can vastly improve your life.
Thurrott, S. (2019, August 23). Almost half the Woodstock generation now struggles with hearing loss. Retrieved September 10, 2020, from https://www.considerable.com/health/hearing-loss/woodstock-generation-hearing-loss/
Many From Woodstock Generation Facing Hearing Loss. (n.d.). Retrieved September 10, 2020, from https://yarmouthaudiology.com/audiology-news/woodstock-generation-
Hearing Loss Support
There are certain stigmas that surround some chronic health issues that arise in later-adulthood. Those that experience untreated hearing loss may be seen as less capable than others, more socially incompetent, or cognitively diminished. Because of these stigmas, many people who experience hearing loss later in life are hesitant to seek help or fail to comply with recommended treatments to avoid being labeled or perceived as weak or elderly. However, as is often true with social stigmas, many of these perceptions are completely unfounded. The truth is that the baby boomer generation as a whole is experiencing hearing loss on a larger scale than most within it realize. Having been the first generation raised on rock n’ roll and able to enjoy a high volume lifestyle, many did not realize the potential for long term damage and did not adequately protect against it. Without the knowledge and technological advancements in the field of hearing protection that we have available now, hearing loss for this generation is an inevitable outcome for many as they reach older age. What is not inevitable is how people respond to it.
One way to overcome the stress and isolation that can arise with hearing loss is by joining a hearing loss peer group. A peer group can be beneficial in a number of ways by providing information and advice as well as keeping you abreast of the latest technologies and treatments available to you. Having a group of other people that share your problems and can help you explore solutions while also empowering you to take charge of your situation can be critical. A hearing loss peer group can provide empathy and understanding, particularly when attended not only by the person experiencing hearing loss but also significant others like a close family member or friend, which can alleviate the fear and isolation that can occur as one begins to experience hearing loss.
There are many different styles of organizations to explore, at whatever level of participation with which you feel comfortable, from casual online forums to nationally established groups like the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). The most important thing to realize, no matter what form of support fits your comfort level, is that you are not alone, and whatever fears you may have regarding stigma or shame or vanity are nothing compared to the quality of life that can be gained by addressing your hearing loss and seeking the appropriate treatment.
Here are some hearing loss peer groups available online:
Kricos PB. Audiologic management of older adults with hearing loss and compromised cognitive/psychoacoustic auditory processing capabilities. Trends Amplif. 2006;10(1):1-28. doi:10.1177/108471380601000102
Kenneth Southall, Jean-Pierre Gagné & Mary Beth Jennings (2010) Stigma: A negative and a positive influence on help-seeking for adults with acquired hearing loss, International Journal of Audiology, 49:11, 804-814, DOI: 10.3109/14992027.2010.498447
Salvatore, M., & Kaland, M. (2002, March 1). The Psychology of Hearing Loss. Retrieved September 10, 2020, from https://leader.pubs.asha.org/doi/full/10.1044/leader.FTR1.07052002.4
Caring for Your Hearing Aids
All hearing aids are inevitably exposed to external elements that can adversely affect their performance and longevity, so it is important to be aware of the things you can do to maintain your hearing aids at home in order to maximize their effectiveness and life span. While periodic professional cleanings are recommended to ensure the entire device is functioning optimally, inside and out, there are a number of home care practices that will extend the life and functionality of your devices. Here is a list of tips for maintaining your hearing aids at home:
Handle with care – Modern hearing aids are made to be durable, but it is still important to handle them carefully to avoid dropping or damaging them.
Wash your hands before handling – Making sure your hands are free of dirt and oils before handling your hearing aids will reduce their exposure to harmful debris and contaminants.
Avoid moisture and heat – Always store in a cool, dry place when not in use, and always remove your hearing aid before being immersed in water, e.g. the shower, pool, etc. Water resistant does not mean waterproof.
Keep them out of reach of children and pets
Gently clean at home – Remove any earwax or debris that may build up on the device’s receiver, microphone and earpiece with a dry cotton swab or a soft bristled toothbrush.
Change ear wax filters regularly – This will prevent build up of wax on the device that can inhibit performance and sound quality