(ARA) - Not too long ago Susan Kladitis felt like quitting life.
The young grandmother and native of the Florida gulf coast is an avid kayaker and boater. Kladitis lives for the time she spends on the water with her family. But her old hearing aids placed far too many limitations on her lifestyle.
"My hearing got so bad that when I would go out and socialize, I couldn't understand what people were saying to me," Kladitis says. "I didn't know how to respond. My kids got tired of me asking them to repeat themselves. I got tired of worrying about water damage to my old hearing aids while boating or kayaking. I just wanted to give up and stay home all the time."
Kladitis is not alone.
Hearing loss is viewed as one of the most overlooked health concerns in America, affecting more than 34 million people in the USA, most of whom are below retirement age.
Today, nearly 10 million Americans wear hearing aids. One in six of those Americans - almost 1.6 million people - restrict their daily activities because of the limitations of their hearing devices, according to a June 2011 survey conducted by Applied Research.
The survey reveals that hearing aids are a key factor in choosing not to participate in everyday activities, like water aerobics, swimming, woodworking and jogging. Even a rainy day can change a hearing aid wearer's daily living, with 29 percent of survey respondents stating that inclement weather affects their daily decisions and use of hearing aids.
"Modern hearing aids can greatly improve the quality of life for a wearer," says Dr. Eric Branda, senior manager of product management for Siemens Hearing Instruments, Inc. "However, quality of life means so much more than basic sensory capabilities. Americans today desire an active, on-the-go lifestyle-regardless of age. Unfortunately, the world around us imposes many restrictions on hearing aid wearers. The main culprits are moisture and dust.
"Refraining from activities you love because your hearing aids aren't waterproof or dustproof isn't merely an inconvenience," Branda adds. "This altered lifestyle can have much deeper consequences leading to social isolation, increased anger, anxiety, cognitive decline and depression. According to the Better Hearing Institute, adults suffering from hearing loss may even face a greater risk of heart disease, dementia and Alzheimer's disease."
More than 63 percent of adults - nearly two out of three - in the United States will contend with significant hearing loss by the time they're 70 years of age, a recent study in the Journals of Gerontology reports. With the first of 78 million baby boomers reaching their mid-60s this year, there may be more Americans facing these life-altering, serious health risks than ever.
"With the baby boomer generation growing older, there is mounting concern from consumers and professionals alike about how modern hearing aids can keep up with today's active lifestyles," says Dean Easterwood, hearing aid specialist for Ears 2 Hear. "Within the hearing care industry, there's even more of a focus now on how hearing instruments can help promote better, healthier living overall. It's become far more than just treating hearing loss."
During the past decade, hearing aid manufacturers have recognized the apparent need for more robust solutions and have introduced water-resistant hearing instruments to the market. Moving beyond just water resistance, the most recent development in hearing aid technology is a completely waterproof and dust proof hearing aid.
Kladitis enjoys the benefits of the hearing industry's innovations with her recent purchase of Aquaris, the first digital waterproof, dustproof and shock-resistant hearing instrument from Siemens.
"The moment I put on my new Aquaris hearing aids, life around me felt more complete," Kladitis says. "I now enjoy kayaking, swimming and boating without worry. I'm able to soak in the nature around me and every little moment spent with my family. I now even get to join in on the impromptu water fights with my grandkids."
Sweat, dirt and dust can make it difficult for traditional hearing aid wearers to enjoy daily activities, like gardening, woodworking, swimming, biking, hiking and team sports. But with waterproof, dustproof and shock resistant capabilities in place, today's modern hearing aids can keep pace with active America - and the millions of Americans with hearing loss are much closer to living the seamless, active lifestyles they desire.