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Archive for Sunday, July 30, 2000

Disposable hearing aid aimed at baby boomers

July 30, 2000

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— Thanks to too much cranked up Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd, thousands of aging baby boomers are suffering hearing loss.

But the old-fashioned, conspicuous hearing aids are not an option for many boomers reluctant to admit they need one and worried about looking old. And most smaller, in-the-ear canal devices may be too expensive for those with only mild hearing loss.

So one company thinks it has an answer: a hearing aid that is inexpensive enough over the short term that it can be disposable.

"When I saw this type of hearing aid, I thought it would give me the chance to try them out in both ears and have an in-the-ear hearing aid to see if I liked it," said Dave Trent of Atlanta, 42.

In-the-ear digital hearing aids can cost close to $5,000 for both ears and occasionally need new batteries. The Songbird hearing aid, which became available earlier this year, can be replaced when it wears out in 30 to 40 days at a cost of about $80.

Songbird is manufactured by Songbird Hearing Inc. of Cranbury, N.J.

To overcome the perception that hearing aids are only for the elderly, Songbird CEO Fred Fritz said the product will be marketed to address noise-induced -- as opposed to age-related -- hearing loss, the most common reason for baby boomer hearing difficulties.

A 1991 government study said the number of men aged 45 to 65 suffering hearing problems was 36 percent higher than in a similar study in the 1970s.

"Songbird is targeted to the vast population of baby boomers whose lifelong exposure to decibel-blasting music, high-pitched manufacturing noises and other forms of noise pollution has taken its toll on their hearing," said Helena Solodar, co-owner of Audiological Consultants of Atlanta, which sells the hearing aid.

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