Hearing Loss Facts

Quick question: how many people in the United States are suffering from some type of hearing loss?

What was your answer?

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

Let’s take a shot at another one. How many people in the US under the age of 65 are afflicted by hearing loss?

Most people are liable to underestimate this one as well. The answer, together with 9 other surprising facts, may change the way you think about hearing loss.

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

People are commonly surprised by this number, and they should be—this number represents 20 percent of the total US population! Stated another way, on average, one out of every five individuals you meet will have some degree of difficulty hearing.

2. At least 30 million Americans under the age of 65 have hearing loss

Out of the 48 million people that have hearing loss in the US, it’s normal to assume that the vast majority are 65 and older.

But the truth is the opposite.

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

In fact, 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 amount of hearing loss.

3. 1.1 billion teens and young adults are in danger of developing hearing loss worldwide

As stated 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 takes us to the next point…

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

1.1 billion individuals globally are in danger of developing hearing loss due to subjection to loud sounds. But what is regarded as being loud?

Subjection to any sound above 85 decibels, for an extended period of time, can potentially lead to irreversible hearing loss.

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

Motorcycles, however, can reach 100 decibels, power saws can reach 110 decibels, and a rowdy rock concert can achieve 115 decibels. Teenagers also are inclined to listen to their iPods or MP3 players at around 100 decibels or higher.

5. 26 million people between the ages of 20 and 69 are afflicted by 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 attributable to exposure to loud sounds at work or during leisure activities.

So while growing old and genetics can cause hearing loss in older adults, noise-induced hearing loss is just as, if not more, dangerous.

6. Each person’s hearing loss is different

No two individuals have exactly the equivalent hearing loss: we all hear various sounds and frequencies in a somewhat distinct way.

That’s why it’s critical to have your hearing evaluated by an experienced hearing care professional. Without specialized testing, any hearing aids or amplification devices you buy 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 long time to have to battle with your hearing.

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

  • Fewer than 16 percent of family doctors 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 believe that hearing aids don’t work, which brings us to the next fact.

8. Only 1 out of 5 people who could reap the benefits of hearing aids wears them

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

Maybe this was true 10 to 15 years ago, but certainly not today.

The evidence for hearing aid efficacy has been thoroughly reported. One example is a study conducted 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 observed the benefits: The National Center for Biotechnology Information, after studying years of research, determined that “studies have shown that users are quite satisfied with their hearing aids.”

Likewise, a current MarkeTrak consumer satisfaction survey discovered that, for patients with hearing aids four years of age or less, 78.6% were happy with their hearing aid performance.

9. More than 200 medications can cause hearing loss

Here’s a little-known fact: certain medications can injure the ear, resulting in hearing loss, ringing in the ear, or balance problems. These medications 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 from tinnitus

In one of the largest studies ever conducted on hearing disorders associated with musicians, researchers found that musicians are 57 percent more likely to be affected by tinnitus—continuous ringing in the ears—as a result of their jobs.

If you’re a musician, or if you attend live events, defending your ears is critical. Talk to us about customized musicians earplugs that assure both protected listening and preserved sound quality.

Which of the 10 facts was most surprising to you?

Let us know in a comment.

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