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Hearing Loss Facts

Quick question: how many individuals in the United States are afflicted with some degree of hearing loss?

What was your answer?

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

Let’s consider another one. How many people in the United States under the age of 65 suffer from hearing loss?

Many people tend to underestimate this answer as well. The correct answer, along with 9 other surprising facts, might change the way you think about hearing loss.

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

People are notoriously surprised by this number, and they should be—this number is 20 percent of the total US population! Expressed another way, on average, one out of every five individuals you encounter will have some measure of trouble hearing.

2. More than 30 million Americans younger than 65 suffer from hearing loss

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

But the reality is the reverse.

For those troubled with 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 form of hearing loss.

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

According to 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 fact…

4. Any sound above 85 decibels can cause harm to hearing

1.1 billion people worldwide are at risk for hearing loss caused by exposure to loud sounds. But what is thought of as loud?

Exposure to any noise over 85 decibels, for a lengthy period of time, can possibly bring about irreversible hearing loss.

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

Motorcycles, on the other hand, can reach 100 decibels, power saws can attain 110 decibels, and a rowdy rock concert can reach 115 decibels. Young adults also tend 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 suffer from hearing loss attributable to exposure to loud sounds at work or during recreation activities.

So while aging and genetics can trigger hearing loss in older adults, noise-induced hearing loss is equally, if not more, hazardous.

6. Each person’s hearing loss is unique

No two people have precisely the same hearing loss: we all hear various sounds and frequencies in a somewhat distinct way.

That’s why it’s crucial to get your hearing analyzed by a highly trained hearing care professional. Without expert testing, any hearing aids or amplification products you acquire will most likely not amplify the correct frequencies.

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

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

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

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

8. Only 1 out of 5 individuals 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 main explanation for the disparity is the false assumption that hearing aids don’t work.

Perhaps this was true 10 to 15 years ago, but most 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 prominent 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 examining years of research, concluded that “studies have shown that users are quite satisfied with their hearing aids.”

Likewise, a recent MarkeTrak consumer satisfaction survey found that, for patients with hearing aids four years old or less, 78.6% were happy with their hearing aid effectiveness.

9. More than 200 medications can bring about hearing loss

Here’s a little-known fact: specific medications can injure the ear, resulting in hearing loss, ringing in the ear, or balance disorders. 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 with tinnitus

In one of the largest studies ever conducted on hearing disorders connected to musicians, researchers found that musicians are 57 percent more likely to suffer from tinnitus—persistent ringing in the ears—as a result of their jobs.

If you’re a musician, or if you attend live shows, safeguarding your ears is crucial. Ask 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.