Only on 7: Famed guitarist and Mr. Big co-founder Paul Gilbert shares hearing loss story

(WZAW) -- Like many musicians who came up playing in the 80s and 90s, Paul Gilbert of Mr. Big didn’t think much about protecting his ears, and subsequently suffered hearing loss.

And while 50 million Americans suffer from hearing loss, due to stigma associated with it, the issue is often ignored or neglected.

That's why during Men’s Health Month, the guitarist voted as one of the “Top 10 Greatest Guitar Shredders of All Time” (Guitar One Magazine) and named to Guitar World’s “50 Fastest Guitarist of All time” is helping to raise awareness of the condition and helping others.

Currently on tour promoting his new album, 52-year-old Gilbert, guitarist of the band Mr. Big – a staple on MTV and radio in the 90s with its #1 hit To Be With You, continues to write music and play around the world while living with hearing loss.

On Wednesday, Gilbert shared his hearing loss story with Holly Chilsen on NewsChannel 7 at 4, and how he got over the stigma to further protect his ears. Technology has played a big role in allowing to Gilbert to continue playing and touring. With Gilbert’s Phonak Audéo Marvel hearing aids, wearers can stream music, phone calls, video and more to both ears from millions of Bluetooth-connected devices. Supporting both Android and iOS devices, it delivers better speech understanding, reduced listening effort in noisy situations, and top sound quality.

Hearing loss is the 3rd most common physical condition after arthritis and heart disease and can contribute to social isolation, depression, early onset dementia, and even lower income potential. But according to an AARP survey, the average person is more likely to get a colonoscopy than a hearing test – 58% to 43%, respectively.

Additional hearing loss stats:
• The number of people with hearing loss is increasing due to dangerous noise exposure in leisure activities and an expanding population age 65+.
• 20% of Americans ages 12 and over has a hearing loss.
• Lifetime costs of untreated profound hearing loss can be as much as $1 million per person in the U.S.
• 20% of teens ages 12-19 have reported hearing loss from exposure to loud noise.
• On average, people with hearing loss wait 10 years from diagnosis to finally getting fitted with hearing aids.
• Social isolation, depression, and increased risk of early onset dementia are common among people with hearing loss. But the use of hearing aids can slow or reverse these issues.