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Hearing aids are not just for older people

January 28, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
You can blame it on loud concerts or the walkman but more baby boomers than ever before are suffering from hearing loss that is so severe that it is interfering with their lives. Is 40 or 50-years-old too young to get a hearing aid? Experts at the House Ear Institute say if you don't address hearing loss early, it can cause permanent damage. Gaye Simmons, 54, walked into a hearing aid clinic to begin her first day of getting back what she lost over the last 10 years, a chance to hear clearly.

"Instead of saying, 'I'm sorry I couldn't hear you,' because I often felt like I had to stick my nose in their face, I would say, 'Oh wow, that's great,'" said Gaye. "So you stop interacting, and you start covering yourself."

She tried to cover the fact she couldn't hear well because she thought a hearing aid would make her look old. What she didn't realize was that not hearing made her look even older.

"Well that is a lot more noticeable than a hearing instrument," said Lisa Wood, House Ear Clinics.

Wood says it's not just about vanity.

"You wouldn't know that I had a red hearing aid in," said Gaye as she placed a hearing aid in front of a mirror.

The longer your brain goes without auditory stimulation, the harder it is to bring back the processes that create hearing.

"If your brain has not been communicating with the ears for fifteen years, there's going to be a little bit of a holdup when you finally decide to take care of the problem," said Wood. "You could end up having some process of getting used to a hearing aid again."

The kind of hearing aid you get depends on many factors including the severity of your hearing loss, the shape of your ear and your life style.

"Somebody who has a quiet life has different needs than a person who is a business person who is going to different lunches and doing business or they're going to meetings," said Wood.

Gaye is a busy mom of an 11-year-old daughter and a private chef. So now she feels young and alive because she can hear everything her life has to offer.

"To be able to hear again was huge, monumental," said Gaye.

The staff at the House Ear Clinic say they're fitting more and more baby boomers with hearing aids because many are realizing the new hearing aids aren't like their parents. In fact, many are ordering custom colors and designs.