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Hearing Loss Facts

Quick question: how many people in the US suffer from some form of hearing loss?

What was your answer?

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

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

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

1. 48 million people in the US have some form of hearing loss

People are often shocked by this number, and they should be—this number is 20 percent of the total US population! Stated another way, on average, one out of each five individuals you meet will have some measure of difficulty hearing.

2. More than 30 million Americans younger than 65 have hearing loss

Out 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 truth is the reverse.

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

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 takes us to the next point…

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

1.1 billion people worldwide are in danger of developing hearing loss due to exposure to loud sounds. But what is regarded as loud?

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

To put that into perspective, a standard conversation is about 60 decibels and city traffic is around 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. Teenagers also tend to listen to their iPods or MP3 players at around 100 decibels or more.

5. 26 million people 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 although growing old and genetics can trigger 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 individuals have exactly the same hearing loss: we all hear various sounds and frequencies in a somewhat different way.

That’s why it’s imperative to have your hearing assessed by a highly trained hearing care professional. Without professional testing, any hearing aids or amplification devices you acquire will most likely not amplify the correct frequencies.

7. Normally, 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 battle 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 screen for hearing loss.
  • Hearing loss is so gradual that it’s difficult to perceive.
  • Hearing loss is frequently partial, meaning some sounds can be heard normally, creating the impression 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 would 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 primary reason for the discrepancy 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 prominent hearing aid models to “provide significant benefit in quiet and noisy listening situations.”

People have also recognized the benefits: The National Center for Biotechnology Information, after evaluating 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 consumers with hearing aids four years of age or less, 78.6% were pleased with their hearing aid effectiveness.

9. More than 200 medications can trigger hearing loss

Here’s a little-known fact: specific medications can injure the ear, causing 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 carried out on hearing disorders linked to musicians, researchers found that musicians are 57 percent more likely to be affected by 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 crucial. Ask us about customized musicians earplugs that assure both safe listening and preserved sound quality.

Which of the 10 facts was most surprising to you?

Tell us in a comment.