Hearing Loss Facts

Quick question: how many individuals in the United States suffer from some type of hearing loss?

What was your answer?

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

Let’s try another one. How many individuals in the United States under the age of 65 are afflicted by hearing loss?

Many people are liable to underestimate this answer as well. The answer, along with 9 other alarming facts, could change the way you think about hearing loss.

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

People are generally shocked by this number, and they should be—this number is 20 percent of the total US population! Said another way, on average, one out of every five individuals you encounter will have some degree of difficulty hearing.

2. At least 30 million Americans younger than 65 have hearing loss

Out of the 48 million people that have hearing loss in the US, it’s common to assume that the majority are 65 and older.

But the reality is the reverse.

For those troubled with hearing loss in the US, around 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

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 fact…

4. Any sound above 85 decibels can damage hearing

1.1 billion people globally 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 lead to permanent 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 harm your hearing.

Motorcycles, however, can reach 100 decibels, power saws can attain 110 decibels, and a loud rock concert can achieve 115 decibels. Young adults also have the tendency to listen to their iPods or MP3 players at around 100 decibels or higher.

5. 26 million people between the ages of 20 and 69 suffer 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 on account of subjection 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, dangerous.

6. Everyone’s hearing loss is unique

No two individuals have precisely the equivalent hearing loss: we all hear a variety of sounds and frequencies in a somewhat distinct way.

That’s why it’s imperative to get your hearing evaluated by an experienced hearing care professional. Without professional testing, any hearing aids or amplification products you buy will most likely not amplify the correct frequencies.

7. On average, people wait 5 to 7 years before seeking help for their hearing loss

Five to seven years is a very long time to have to struggle with your hearing loss.

Why do people wait so many years? There are in truth many reasons, but the main ones are:

  • Fewer than 16 percent of family doctors test for hearing loss.
  • Hearing loss is so gradual that it’s difficult to perceive.
  • Hearing loss is often partial, which means some sounds can be heard normally, creating the perception of healthy hearing.
  • People believe that hearing aids don’t work, which takes us to the next fact.

8. Only 1 out of 5 individuals who could 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 central explanation for the disparity is the invalid 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 effectiveness has been widely 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 experienced the benefits: The National Center for Biotechnology Information, after analyzing 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 old or less, 78.6% were happy with their hearing aid effectiveness.

9. More than 200 medications can cause hearing loss

Here’s a little-known fact: specific medications can damage the ear, causing hearing loss, ringing in the ear, or balance disorders. 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 biggest studies ever performed on hearing disorders associated with musicians, researchers discovered that musicians are 57 percent more likely to suffer from tinnitus—continuing ringing in the ears—as a result of their jobs.

If you’re a musician, or if you attend live concerts, defending your ears is vital. Talk to us about custom musicians earplugs that assure both protected listening and preserved sound quality.

Which of the 10 facts was most surprising to you?

Tell us in a comment.