Magazine article Newsweek

The President's Got a New Aid

Magazine article Newsweek

The President's Got a New Aid

Article excerpt

A life of crowds, music and guns takes a toll on Clinton's hearing

BILL CLINTON, THE FIRST U.S. president ever raised on rock and roll, has learned a related distinction: last week, at the age of 51, he became the youngest commander in chief ever outfitted with dual hearing aids. Clinton's physicians found him in "excellent overall health" during a six-hour physical last Friday. But tests showed a significant loss of high-frequency hearing. Before heading home, the president was fitted for a pair of small, CIC ("completely in canal") devices, which he'll be able to use as needed. His condition is "not anything like profound deafness," according to his audiologist, Dr. James Sun. But it's not a trivial concern. Millions of Americans are at risk of noise-induced hearing loss -- and as people of Clinton's generation drift into their 50s, more and more will feel his pain.

The presidency is a noisy job, what with the helicopters, screaming crowds and military bands. But Clinton's doctors say his problem has developed over several decades. As a teenager, he played sax in a band and hunted ducks with shotguns. Combine those pastimes with a penchant for loud music, and you have a recipe for long-term hearing loss. Any sound louder than 85 decibels can damage the delicate hair cells that line the inner ear. The effects may go unnoticed for long periods, but they accumulate. "Here's a guy with a lot of noise exposure that never bothered him when he was young," says Dr. William Clark, senior scientist at the Central Institute for the Deaf, in St. …

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