Audiologists spend much of their time helping people cope with hearing loss, but the ultimate goal is to prevent people from suffering from hearing loss to begin with. As the saying goes, prevention is the best medicine. A recent article published in JAMA Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery offered some encouraging news – hearing loss in U.S. adults aged 20-69 has declined over the last decade.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) is a nationally representative health interview and examination survey of U.S. adults. Participants of the survey listened to tones of various frequencies and various volume levels, with hearing loss being defined as an average hearing threshold in at least one ear that was greater than 25 decibels in loudness (about the noise level of rustling leaves). Using the hearing health data collected from the NHAES, researchers compared data on hearing loss trends in adults from age 20 to 69 during two time periods: 2011-2012 and 1999-2004. Researchers found that the overall annual prevalence of hearing loss dropped from 16 percent to 14 percent. This remained consistent when going even further back and using data from 1959 to 1962 and comparing it to the 1999-2004 data set. While a two percent decrease in hearing loss may not seem like much, it does indicate an encouraging trend going forward.
While there is no conclusive explanation for the reduction of hearing loss, researchers speculate that possible factors may include fewer manufacturing jobs, an increase in the use of hearing protection, decreased smoking, and general advances in healthcare that lead to improved management of risk factors associated with hearing loss.
Researchers found that age was the strongest predictor of hearing loss, with the condition being more prevalent in the oldest group being studied (aged 60 to 69). Even when taking all ages in to account, men were about twice as likely as their female counterparts to have hearing loss. Non-Hispanic white adults were more likely to have hearing loss than adults in other ethnic groups, while non-Hispanic black adults had the lowest risk. Lower education levels were associated with more hearing loss, and not surprisingly, so was heavy firearm use.
While it is good to see this positive trend moving forward, the fact remains that many individuals still need help. At Sound Hearing Solutions, we are proud to do our part in making sure that our patients are always hearing at the best.