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Hearing Loss: Over 60% of Americans Over Age 70 Suffer

Hearing Loss Prevalence

Hearing loss has been linked to several conditions that appear as adults reach old age.  Issues with impaired driving, dementia, and falls have all been associated with decreased hearing ability in older adults.  In addition, there has even been evidence that a gradual loss of hearing over one’s lifetime can also put that person at increased risk of deteriorating social abilities, depression, an inability to communicate effectively and physical decline. 

Current Studies on Hearing Loss

It may be surprising to learn that there have been very few studies presented that show the prevalence  of hearing loss in the older population.  Several studies have been conducted which show the negative outcomes that can occur as a result of hearing difficulties, but little research has been presented on how many older individuals are actually affected by hearing low.  Especially in the cases of adults age seventy and older, finding out how many people are affected nationwide could bring attention to the need for more hearing services as well as the need for more research into the treatment of hearing loss.

New Research from Johns Hopkins University

hearing loss in the elderlyJust this year, in 2011, a study has been published in the Journal of Gerontology on the prevalence of hearing difficulties in adults age seventy and older.  The study, which was conducted by physicians at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, aimed to find out exactly how many older persons were affected by some type of hearing loss. 

How the Study Was Conducted

Several hundred participants from larger studies of hearing loss were tested for hearing and also surveyed on their noise exposure history and medical history.  In addition, demographic information such as ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status and hearing aid usage was collected.  All of this information was then applied to statistical calculations to find out just how prevalent hearing loss is in the general population of patients ages seventy and older. 

Hearing Loss Prevalence Research Results

Depending on the factors that are used to define hearing loss, the results of this study varied widely.  Using the World Health Organization definition of hearing loss, which incorporates a number of hearing-related measures, hearing loss prevalence in the United States in patients seventy and older is over 60%.  This is a staggering number considering the implications that hearing loss has on individuals of all age groups. 

Other interesting data that was collected in this particular study show that those patients that identify their race as black had lower chances of developing hearing loss when compared to those patients of other races and ethnicities.  A possible explanation of this trend deals with the chemical, melanin, that is found in higher concentration in black individuals.  Melanin may protect the ear and therefore, decrease hearing loss in black patients. 

What to Do if You Are Experiencing Hearing Loss

If you are noticing an increase in the amount of times that you need people to repeat what has been said, or are having a difficult time following a conversation, consider visiting a licensed health care provider that specializes in hearing health.  Audiologists and hearing instrument specialists are also available to assess hearing health offer treatment options, such as hearing aids or other assistive devices.

Source: Linn, Thorpe, Gordon, Ferucci. (2011). Hearing Loss Prevalence and Risk Factors Among Older Adults in the United States. Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

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