HealthDay News — According to a study published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, hearing loss appears to be on the decline among Americans in their 40s, 50s and 60s — partly related to reductions in on-the-job noise and smoking rates.
Howard Hoffman, of the US National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders in Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues analyzed hearing-test results from 3831 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% of people in the more recent survey had impaired hearing, versus 15.9% 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. US 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%.
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 1000 rounds fired, one-quarter had impaired hearing.
“Despite the benefit of delayed onset of hearing impairment, hearing health care needs will increase as the US population grows and ages,” the authors write.
Hoffman HJ, et al. “Declining Prevalence of Hearing Loss in US Adults Aged 20 to 69 Years.” JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2016. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2016.3527. [Epub ahead of print]