Nearly 1-in-5 Americans Have Hearing Loss
November 15, 2011

Nearly 1-in-5 Americans Have Hearing Loss

According to a new study, about a fifth of all Americans 12 years or older have hearing loss so severe that it may make communication difficult.

The researchers said that the findings suggest that many more people are affected by hearing loss than previously thought.

The team said that several previous estimates of hearing loss focused on various cities or populations, like children or elderly patients.

"I couldn't find a simple number of how common hearing loss is in the U.S., so we decided to develop our own," Study leader Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D. said in a press release. Lin is an assistant professor with dual appointments in both the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and in the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The researchers used data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys (NHANES).  They analyzed data from participants age 12 and older whose hearing was tested during NHANES examinations from 2001 to 2008.

The researchers found that overall, about 30 million Americans, or 12.7 percent of the population, had hearing loss in both ears.  This number jumps to about 48 million for people who have hearing loss in at least one ear.

Hearing loss nearly doubled with every age decade, with women and African Americans being significantly less likely to have hearing loss at any age.

The team said they are not sure why these groups appear to be protected, but Lin did say that the female hormone estrogen could have a protective effect on the inner ear.

He said that the consequences of hearing loss include cognitive decline, dementia and poor physical functioning.

"This gives us the real scope of the problem for the first time and shows us how big of a problem hearing loss really is," Lin said in a press release.

The research was published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.


On the Net: