Hearing Impairment on the Decline in Americans Under 70

Hearing Impairment on the Decline in Americans Under 70

FRIDAY, Dec. 16, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Hearing loss appears to be on the decline among Americans in their 40s, 50s and 60s — which may be partly related to reductions in on-the-job noise and smoking rates, according to a study published online Dec. 15 in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

Howard Hoffman, of the U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues analyzed hearing-test results from 3,831 Americans ages 20 to 69 who took part in a federal health survey in 2011 to 2012. Their performance was compared against adults the same age who were studied from 1999 through 2004. Overall, 14.1 percent of people in the more recent survey had impaired hearing, versus 15.9 percent in the earlier group.

Relatively few 20- and 30-somethings had hearing problems in either time period. However, by the 40s, the decline in hearing impairment became apparent. U.S. men remain at particular risk of hearing problems. By 2012, their rate of hearing impairment was still almost double that of women — at 18.6 percent. Even when Hoffman’s team accounted for occupational noise exposure, men were still at higher risk than women. The researchers also found that hearing problems were common among people who spent time around firearms, on the job or not. Of those exposed to more than 1,000 rounds fired, one-quarter had impaired hearing.

“Despite the benefit of delayed onset of hearing impairment, hearing health care needs will increase as the U.S. population grows and ages,” the authors write.

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