“Sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today,
Sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today,
And don’t worry ’bout tomorrow, hey.”
    —Lyrics from “Let’s Live for Today,” the Grass Roots, 1967

SilvermanLiving for the moment was a philosophy embraced by most Baby Boomers in the revolutionary era of the 1960s and 70s. While kicking back, turning on, and tuning in, they were also turning it way, way up. Now, a couple of decades later, while still embracing the moment, the Rock and Roll generation that thought the music would never stop, is having a hard time hearing it at all.

Results of a recent survey conducted by The Ear Foundation and Clarity, a Division of Plantronics, determined that as many as 38 million Americans between the ages of 40 and 59 are coming to grips with varying levels of hearing loss. This is an astonishingly larger number than results from a 1990 survey by the National Center for Health that indicated only 16 million Boomers were experiencing hearing loss. What is the cause of a generation losing its hearing more rapidly than any before? Ironically, a more dynamic and active lifestyle than its predecessors, as well as a constant exposure to noise pollution—traffic, planes, machinery, electronics, and … music. Fortunately, Baby Boomers also have the financial resources to address their hearing problems. They just need guidance.

What does this mean for audiologists and hearing health care professionals? How can they benefit from a generation that has almost doubled its potential revenue base in just a decade? Don’t just encourage individuals to wear appropriate hearing protection when listening to music or regulate environmental sound to the best of their abilities, get out and participate in media outreach programs, setting up information booths at public events, even donating branded hearing protection at concerts could be beneficial. Another tactic is partnering with interested celebrities. For example, Baby Boomer musicians like legendary drummer Mick Fleetwood, Who guitarist Pete Townsend, and rocker chanteuse Pat Benatar, have become hearing health advocates for high-profile companies, enlightening fellow Boomers (and the X and Y generations) of the benefits of protecting their hearing from high decibel damage. Combined with the public outreach efforts of such major hearing industry players as EAR Inc, Westone, and Energizer®, educational programs through hearing organizations like the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association and the American Academy of Audiology, as well as special interest groups like San Francisco-based organization HEAR (Hearing Education & Awareness for Rockers) are heavy hitters in spreading the word of hearing protection to both musicians and music fans through education and public service spots in the media. (For example, HEAR helped pass an earplug ordinance in San Francisco requiring music venues to provide affordable hearing protection to concert goers.)

Once again, Baby Boomers have the resources to protect their hearing and set an example for subsequent generations. However, it’s up to you to lead the way.

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Rogena Schuyler Silverman
[email protected]