20% of Americans have a hearing problem

Hearing loss found in one in five americans

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The number of Americans who struggle with hearing loss might surprise you. A fifth of Americans over the age of 12 have hearing loss severe enough to make communication difficult.

That finding suggests that a larger than anticipated number of Americans struggle with hearing loss.

"Get your hearing checked on a regular basis."

Dr. Frank Lin, study leader and an assistant professor both at the department of otolaryngology-head & neck surgery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and in the department of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said that previous estimates focused on particular cities or populations such as children or the elderly, but there had been no estimate for the entire United States.

Researchers utilized data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys, a research program that periodically gathers health information from Americans. The data analyzed was from participants age 12 and older who had their hearing tested during examinations from the national survey agency between 2001 and 2008. It includes men and women of all ages and from cities across the U.S. believed to mimic the country's population.

Investigators found that about 30 million Americans, or 13 percent of the population has hearing loss in both ears. About 48 million, or 20 percent, have hearing loss in one ear. Previous estimates suggested that between 21 million to 29 million Americans might have hearing loss.

The number affected by hearing loss doubled with each age decade, and women and blacks were found significantly less likely to have hearing loss regardless of age though the reason was not clear. However the protection may come from the female hormone estrogen and the melanin in darker skin, which may protect the inner ear.

“This gives us the real scope of the problem for the first time and shows us how big of a problem hearing loss really is,” Dr. Lin says.

The findings were published in the Nov. 14 Archives of Internal Medicine.

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Review Date: 
November 16, 2011
Last Updated:
November 16, 2011