April 27, 2010:
Healthier hearing in the baby boomers
The hearing of the post-war generation — the baby boomers — is better than that of their parents. That is the conclusion of an American study, which shows that the rate of hearing impairment in baby boomers is in fact 31% lower than that of their parents.
The study points out that despite the rising level of “personal noise”, the amount of noise around us has actually fallen for the majority of us, not least because of less noise in the workplace. One example of this is that fewer and fewer are employed in the noisy surroundings of the industrial sector.
Another factor is better healthcare, and the widespread use of antibiotics, which combat the infections and inflammations that can cause hearing loss. The results of the study mean that the estimated number with hearing loss in the USA needs to be re-evaluated. The number of people expected to suffer from hearing loss in the USA in 2030 now falls from 65.5 million to 51 million. Despite this re-evaluation, that is still more than the ca. 30 million hearing impaired we see today.
The study was carried out by researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, using 5,275 people born in the Beaver Dam area between 1902 and 1962. Among men, the study showed 36.4% with hearing impairment, compared with 58.1% among men born between 1930 and 1935 when they were the same age. Among women, those figures are 12% in those born between 1945 and 1949, compared with 23% in those born between 1930 and 1939. This is surprising given that the baby boomers are the first generation to grow up with rock concerts, used personal music systems, and have generally been surrounded by more noise in their free time than their parents.