Fewer Americans Under 70 Have Hearing Loss – WebMD – WebMD

Fewer Americans Under 70 Have Hearing Loss

By Amy Norton

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Dec. 15, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Americans younger than 70 may be hearing better now compared with 15 years ago, a new government study suggests.

Researchers found that hearing loss appears to be on the decline among Americans in their 40s, 50s and 60s — which may be partly related to reductions in on-the-job noise and smoking rates.

However, while that’s “good news,” it needs to be balanced with a reality check, said lead researcher Howard Hoffman, of the U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Hearing loss is still common, he said. Among study participants in their 60s, for example, 39 percent were hearing-impaired.

And based on other research, hearing loss grows in prevalence after age 70.

“We’re not really preventing hearing impairment, we’re delaying it,” Hoffman said.

With the elderly population expanding, he added, that means the “overall burden” of hearing loss will remain large.

Dr. Maura Cosetti, an otolaryngologist who was not involved in the study, agreed.

The dip in hearing-loss prevalence is “exciting,” said Cosetti, who directs the Cochlear Implant Center at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai in New York City.

“But, the other big takeaway,” she said, “is that hearing impairment is common, and it’s important to recognize and treat it.”

The study results were published online Dec. 15 in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

For the study, the researchers analyzed hearing-test results from more than 3,800 Americans ages 20 to 69 who took part in a federal health survey in 2011-2012. Their performance was compared against adults the same age who were studied from 1999 through 2004.

Overall, 14 percent of people in the more recent survey had impaired hearing, versus 16 percent in the earlier group.

Relatively few 20- and 30-somethings had hearing problems in either time period. However, by the 40s, the decline in hearing impairment became apparent, Hoffman said.

He speculated on some likely reasons: Compared with years ago, fewer people have industrial jobs that expose them to constant noise. Plus, workers now have more regulations, education and safety equipment to protect their hearing.


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