(ARA) - Larry Crum didn't realize how bad his hearing really was until he was hunting one afternoon with some friends. He couldn't hear a wild boar grinding his teeth just a few yards away.
As a 44-year-old husband, father and head pastor of the First Church of the Nazarene in Rochester, Mich., Crum's life was slowly falling silent. When he realized he couldn't fully participate in conversations with his family and congregation members, he began to wonder what else he could be missing.
"More than 48 million Americans suffer from hearing loss, and many of those individuals are oblivious to the small details of life they're missing out on," says Dr. Angela Flores, director of Education and Training at Siemens Hearing Instruments, Inc. "Unaddressed hearing loss can lead to social isolation, increased anger and depression. A recent study from the U.S. National Institute on Aging shows adults who experience hearing loss may even face a greater risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease."
With the baby boomer generation reaching its greatest numbers at 77 million, our nation's state of health is of great concern. The number of Americans struggling with hearing loss increases by the day.
Hearing aids from a generation ago carry the stigmas of being clunky, uncomfortable and ineffective. And many image-conscious Americans ignore their hearing loss because acknowledging it brings negative attention and a perceived weakness.
But hearing aid manufacturers have made significant strides in enhancing the natural performance, look and size of the latest hearing aids. Even added benefits, such as Bluetooth-enabled accessories and waterproof features, further enhance your lifestyle. Current sophisticated technology enables wearers to distinguish voices from noise and block out background sounds in crowded areas.
"Many boomers do not realize the advancements hearing aids have made," Flores says. "Today's devices are smaller, stronger and offer much more of a pleasant listening experience than in years past."
For Pastor Crum, every day is filled with interactions with people, whether he's counseling members of his congregation, conversing with passengers as he drives the youth-ministry van or visiting someone in need.
But making those connections became difficult once Crum's hearing began to decline.
The cause of Crum's hearing loss? Genetics mixed with a life of heavy noise exposure. He spent 12 years working in an automobile factory and has been a hunter all of his life - a costly combination.
"I struggled for years to hear the details of life - among my family, my grandchildren, members of my congregation and out within nature," Crum says. "Conversations with my granddaughters were often difficult, not to mention conversing with my parishioners in a crowded foyer."
Success came when Crum was fitted with a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid from Siemens - the Motion 701.
With Siemens BestSound Technology, Crum now enjoys the clarity he needs in communicating with his congregation and family in a variety of settings, as well as the detail he needs while hunting. A handheld remote streamer, the Siemens Tek, even offers Crum Bluetooth wireless connectivity to his television and mobile phone.
"Today's boomers are far more active and technologically advanced than the previous generation, and many of them look to technology to both enhance their lives and solve their challenges," Flores says. "It's amazing to see wearers enjoy sound with their hearing aids while swimming, biking and living a fulfilling everyday life. But even still, many boomers experiencing hearing loss wait an average of seven years before getting their hearing tested."
Prevention is by far the best option. Flores suggests turning the volume down on your television and mobile phones, wearing ear protection while mowing the lawn and in other loud environments, and having your hearing tested regularly starting at the age of 50.
For those already experiencing hearing loss, go see a hearing care professional near you to receive a pain-free audiogram and discuss your hearing aid options. According to Flores, early treatment can prevent greater loss down the road, not to mention better your life sooner rather than later.