ATLANTA (AP) -- Thanks to too much cranked up Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones and Lynrd Skynrd, thousands of aging baby boomers are suffering hearing loss, although they don't want to admit it by wearing a traditional hearing aid.
The old-fashioned, conspicuous hearing aids are not an option for many boomers worried about looking old, and the smaller, in-the-ear canal devices may be too expensive for those who are experiencing only mild hearing loss.
So one company thinks it has an answer: a relatively inexpensive, disposable hearing aid.
"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, 42.
In-the-ear digital hearing aids can cost nearly $5,000 for both ears.
"It was more of a financial thing for me," Trent said. "The 3-month supply was $250 and I thought it would give me the opportunity to test it out and see if I liked it. It's an interesting concept to throw away a hearing aid."
Songbird, manufactured by Songbird Hearing Inc. of Cranbury, N.J., is disposable because the batteries don't need to be replaced. When the hearing aid wears out in 30 to 40 days, it can be thrown away.
"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, an audiologist and co-owner of Audiological Consultants of Atlanta, which sells the hearing aid, which first became available earlier this year.
To overcome the perception that hearing aids are only for the elderly, Songbird Chief Executive Officer 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 indicated in a similar study in the 1970s.
Fritz says Songbird includes a microphone seven times larger than those found in traditional hearing aids and a hearing tip that is softer, fitting deeper into the ear canal, cutting out extraneous noise.
To some in the industry, Songbird's innovation is more marketing than science.
"It is an interesting concept, but the circuitry is not that revolutionary," said Doug Hudson, Chief Executive Officer of HearingPlanet.Com, a Nashville, Tenn.-based Internet seller of hearing aid products. "It's cheap to produce and it's disposable. It's a neat idea."
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