-- Robert Preidt
MONDAY, Nov. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Hearing loss affects about
one-fifth of Americans aged 12 and older, a far higher number than
previously believed, researchers report.
They examined data from people whose hearing was tested during
National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys (NHANES) from
2001 to 2008.
Based on the World Health Organization's definition of hearing
loss (unable to hear sounds of 25 decibels or less in the speech
frequencies), the NHANES data showed that 12.7 percent (30 million
people) of the U.S. population aged 12 and older had hearing loss
in both ears and 20.3 percent (48 million people) had hearing loss
in at least one ear.
Previous estimates put the numbers at 21 million to 29
This new study also found that rates of hearing loss nearly
doubled with every decade of age, and that women and blacks were
significantly less likely to have hearing loss at any age.
It's not clear why women and blacks are less likely to
experience hearing loss, study leader Dr. Frank Lin said in a
university news release.
Lin is an assistant professor with dual appointments in both 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.
It may be that the female hormone estrogen and the melanin
pigment in darker skin could have a protective effect on the inner
ear, which Lin and colleagues plan to investigate in future
Lin said the findings of this study, published Nov. 14 in the
Archives of Internal Medicine, will help research into hearing loss and its potential consequences such as cognitive decline, dementia and poor physical functioning.
"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," Lin said.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has more about
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