Hearing Loss Facts

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

What was your answer?

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

Let’s take a shot at one more. How many individuals in the US under the age of 65 suffer from hearing loss?

Many people tend to underestimate this one as well. The answer, together with 9 other alarming facts, might transform the way you think about hearing loss.

1. 48 million people in the United States have some degree of hearing loss

People are usually surprised by this number, and they should be—this number is 20 percent of the entire US population! Stated a different way, on average, one out of each five individuals you encounter will have some degree of difficulty hearing.

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

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

But the truth is the reverse.

For those suffering from hearing loss in the US, roughly 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 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 brings us to the next point…

4. Any sound over 85 decibels can damage hearing

1.1 billion individuals worldwide are at risk for hearing loss as a consequence of subjection to loud sounds. But what is regarded as being loud?

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

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

Motorcycles, however, can reach 100 decibels, power saws can reach 110 decibels, and a loud rock concert can reach 115 decibels. Teenagers 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 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 due to subjection to loud sounds at work or during leisure activities.

So although 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 people have exactly the equivalent hearing loss: we all hear a variety 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 specialized testing, any hearing aids or amplification products you buy will most likely not amplify the proper frequencies.

7. Normally, 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 many years? There are in truth several reasons, but the main reasons are:

  • Fewer than 16 percent of family doctors screen for hearing loss.
  • Hearing loss is so gradual that it’s difficult to perceive.
  • Hearing loss is often 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 presumption that hearing aids don’t work.

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

The evidence for hearing aid effectiveness has been widely reported. One example is a study managed 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 observed the benefits: The National Center for Biotechnology Information, after assessing years of research, determined 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 of age or less, 78.6% were pleased with their hearing aid effectiveness.

9. More than 200 medications can bring about hearing loss

Here’s a little-known fact: certain medications can injure the ear, causing hearing loss, ringing in the ear, or balance problems. These drugs 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 largest studies ever conducted on hearing disorders associated with musicians, researchers found that musicians are 57 percent more likely to suffer from tinnitus—continuous ringing in the ears—as a result of their jobs.

If you’re a musician, or if you attend live concerts, safeguarding your ears is essential. Talk to us about customized musicians earplugs that ensure both safe listening and preserved sound quality.

Which of the 10 facts was most surprising to you?

Tell us in a comment.