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Hearing Loss Facts

Quick question: how many individuals in the US are suffering from some amount of hearing loss?

What is your answer?

I’m prepared to bet, if I had to guess, that it was well short of the correct answer of 48 million individuals.

Let’s consider one more. How many people in the US under the age of 65 are suffering from hearing loss?

Many people are likely to underestimate this answer as well. The correct answer, together with 9 other alarming facts, might change the way you think about hearing loss.

1. 48 million individuals in the US have some level of hearing loss

People are oftentimes shocked by this number, and they should be—this number represents 20 percent of the entire US population! Stated another way, on average, one out of every five individuals you meet will have some amount of trouble hearing.

2. More than 30 million Americans under the age of 65 have hearing loss

Of the 48 million individuals that have hearing loss in the US, it’s natural to presume that the vast majority are 65 and older.

But the reality is the opposite.

For those suffering with hearing loss in the US, approximately 62 percent are younger than 65.

The fact is, 1 in 6 baby boomers (ages 41-59), 1 in 14 Generation Xers (ages 29-40), 1.4 million children (18 or younger), and 2-3 out of 1,000 infants have some form of hearing loss.

3. 1.1 billion teens and young adults are at risk for hearing loss worldwide

As reported by The World Health Organization:

“Some 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices, including smartphones, and exposure to damaging levels of sound at noisy entertainment venues such as nightclubs, bars and sporting events. Hearing loss has potentially devastating consequences for physical and mental health, education and employment.”

Which brings us to the next point…

4. Any sound in excess of 85 decibels can harm hearing

1.1 billion people worldwide are in danger of developing hearing loss as a consequence of subjection to loud sounds. But what is considered loud?

Subjection to any noise over 85 decibels, for a lengthy period of time, can possibly result in permanent hearing loss.

To put that into perspective, a normal conversation is around 60 decibels and city traffic is about 85 decibels. These sounds most likely won’t harm your hearing.

Motorcycles, on the other hand, can reach 100 decibels, power saws can reach 110 decibels, and a rowdy rock concert can reach 115 decibels. Young adults also are inclined to listen to their iPods or MP3 players at around 100 decibels or higher.

5. 26 million individuals between the ages of 20 and 69 are suffering from noise-induced hearing loss

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 15 percent of Americans (26 million people) between the ages of 20 and 69 are afflicted by hearing loss as a consequence of subjection to loud sounds at work or during leisure activities.

So although aging and genetics can cause hearing loss in older adults, noise-induced hearing loss is just as, if not more, hazardous.

6. Everyone’s hearing loss is different

No two people have exactly the equivalent hearing loss: we all hear a range of sounds and frequencies in a slightly different way.

That’s why it’s vital to get your hearing assessed by an experienced hearing care professional. Without expert testing, any hearing aids or amplification devices you acquire will most likely not amplify the proper frequencies.

7. On average, people wait 5 to 7 years before seeking help for their hearing loss

Five to seven years is a very long time to have to struggle with your hearing loss.

Why do people wait so long? There are in fact many reasons, but the main ones are:

  • Fewer than 16 percent of family physicians test for hearing loss.
  • Hearing loss is so gradual that it’s hard to perceive.
  • Hearing loss is often partial, which means some sounds can be heard normally, creating the perception of normal hearing.
  • People think that hearing aids don’t work, which takes us to the next fact.

8. Only 1 out of 5 individuals who would benefit from hearing aids wears them

For every five people who could live better with hearing aids, only one will actually wear them. The central reason for the disparity is the false presumption that hearing aids don’t work.

Perhaps this was accurate 10 to 15 years ago, but certainly not today.

The evidence for hearing aid efficacy has been extensively reported. One example is a study performed by the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found three popular hearing aid models to “provide significant benefit in quiet and noisy listening situations.”

Patients have also noticed the benefits: The National Center for Biotechnology Information, after assessing years of research, concluded that “studies have shown that users are quite satisfied with their hearing aids.”

Similarly, a recent MarkeTrak consumer satisfaction survey discovered that, for patients with hearing aids four years old or less, 78.6% were pleased with their hearing aid performance.

9. More than 200 medications can trigger hearing loss

Here’s a little-known fact: certain medications can injure the ear, causing hearing loss, ringing in the ear, or balance disorders. These drugs are considered ototoxic.

In fact, there are more than 200 identified ototoxic medications. For more information on the specific medications, visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

10. Professional musicians are 57 percent more liable to suffer with tinnitus

In one of the most extensive studies ever conducted on hearing disorders linked with musicians, researchers discovered that musicians are 57 percent more likely to suffer from tinnitus—continuous ringing in the ears—as a result of their work.

If you’re a musician, or if you participate in live concerts, defending your ears is essential. Ask us about custom musicians earplugs that ensure both protected listening and preserved sound quality.

Which of the 10 facts was most surprising to you?

Tell us in a comment.