The Baby Boom generation is reshaping America’s aging population. Of the 318 million people that live in America, 15% of U.S. citizens are over the age of 65. By the year 2060, that number is projected to double to 98 million U.S. citizens. One in every three over the age of 65 will develop hearing problems, and half the citizens over age 85 will experience hearing loss. This means that Baby Boomers with hearing loss will likely reach tens of millions.
Tiny hair cells inside our inner ear collect sound waves and convert them into signals that the brain interprets as sound. Hearing loss occurs when these tiny hair cells become damaged or die over time. The condition is called presbycusis. Low bass tones become amplified, while mid to high frequency sounds become distorted and blurred. In addition, as one’s ability to hear decays, perimeter background noise becomes amplified. Conversation clarity is compromised as individuals are no longer able to distinguish audio signals or process information. These individuals struggle to hold conversations in loud public spaces and gradually lose the ability to communicate with other people. Depression and loneliness can set in because these individuals are less likely to venture out into public spaces and socialize.
Because presbycusis is often a symptom of age, Baby Boomers’ hearing loss will reach startling levels as this generation ages. (Hearing loss is not completely tied to age — for instance, young adults who listen to headphones at high volumes often suffer from hearing loss.) Because hearing loss will be so prevalent within this aging population, it is important that communal areas within senior communities and elderly care facilities begin to focus more on controlling ambient noise levels to provide quiet spaces where community members are better able to congregate, dine, worship and socialize.
Sound panels are the ideal noise pollution solution — a clever way to reduce noise for individuals suffering from hearing loss and to prevent future hearing issues. These sound panels can be mounted on walls or ceilings to help capture and convert the unwanted echoes from the space. In turn, the background noise will drop as clarity to the original sound is restored.
Sound panels are the perfect solution to noise pollution and will surely become a necessity for our rapidly aging population. As new retirement communities are designed down the road, it is critical that we make sound control a top priority in the architectural layout.