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Hearing Loss Facts

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

What is your answer?

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

Let’s try another one. How many people in the United States younger than 65 suffer from hearing loss?

Many people have a tendency to underestimate this one as well. The answer, together with 9 other surprising facts, may transform the way you think about hearing loss.

1. 48 million individuals in the United States have some form of hearing loss

People are notoriously surprised by this number, and they should be—this number represents 20 percent of the total US population! Expressed a different way, on average, one out of each five individuals you meet will have some amount of difficulty hearing.

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

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

But the reality is the reverse.

For those who suffer from hearing loss in the US, roughly 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 takes us to the next point…

4. Any sound over 85 decibels can harm hearing

1.1 billion people globally are at risk for hearing loss due to exposure to loud sounds. But what is considered to be loud?

Exposure to any sound above 85 decibels, for an extended amount of time, can possibly result in irreversible hearing loss.

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

Motorcycles, however, can reach 100 decibels, power saws can reach 110 decibels, and a loud 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 people between the ages of 20 and 69 are afflicted by noise-induced hearing loss

As reported by 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 as a result of subjection to loud sounds at work or during leisure activities.

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

6. Each person’s hearing loss is different

No two people have precisely the same hearing loss: we all hear an assortment of sounds and frequencies in a somewhat different way.

That’s why it’s essential to have your hearing analyzed by a highly trained hearing care professional. Without quality 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 pursuing help for their hearing loss

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

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

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

8. Only 1 out of 5 individuals who could 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 discrepancy is the false presumption that hearing aids don’t work.

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

The evidence for hearing aid effectiveness has been thoroughly reported. One example is a study carried out 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 experienced the benefits: The National Center for Biotechnology Information, after analyzing years of research, concluded that “studies have shown that users are quite satisfied with their hearing aids.”

Similarly, 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 performance.

9. More than 200 medications can trigger hearing loss

Here’s a little-known fact: certain medications can harm 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 known ototoxic medications. For more information on the specific medications, visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

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

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

If you’re a musician, or if you participate in live events, protecting your ears is critical. 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?

Let us know in a comment.