Hearing Loss Facts

Quick question: how many individuals in the United States are afflicted with some type of hearing loss?

What is your answer?

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

Let’s consider one more. How many people in the United States younger than 65 suffer from hearing loss?

Most people are likely to underestimate this one as well. The correct answer, together with 9 other surprising facts, may transform the way you think about hearing loss.

1. 48 million individuals in the United States have some degree of hearing loss

People are typically surprised by this number, and they should be—this number is 20 percent of the entire US population! Said a different way, on average, one out of each five individuals you meet will have some measure of difficulty hearing.

2. Around 30 million Americans younger than 65 have hearing loss

Out of the 48 million individuals that have hearing loss in the US, it’s normal to presume that the vast majority are 65 years and older.

But the truth is the reverse.

For those struggling with hearing loss in the US, roughly 62 percent are younger than 65.

The fact is, 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 extent of hearing loss.

3. 1.1 billion teens and young adults are at risk for 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 point…

4. Any sound over 85 decibels can cause harm to hearing

1.1 billion people globally are in danger of developing hearing loss due to subjection to loud sounds. But what is regarded as being loud?

Exposure to any noise above 85 decibels, for a lengthy period of time, can possibly lead to irreversible hearing loss.

To put that into perspective, a normal conversation is around 60 decibels and city traffic is about 85 decibels. These sounds probably won’t damage your hearing.

Motorcycles, on the other hand, can reach 100 decibels, power saws can attain 110 decibels, and a loud rock concert can reach 115 decibels. Young adults also are inclined to listen to their iPods or MP3 players at around 100 decibels or more.

5. 26 million people between the ages of 20 and 69 are suffering 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 are afflicted by hearing loss attributable to subjection to loud sounds at work or during leisure activities.

So although aging and genetics can result in hearing loss in older adults, noise-induced hearing loss is equally, if not more, hazardous.

6. Each person’s hearing loss is unique

No two individuals have exactly the same hearing loss: we all hear a range of sounds and frequencies in a slightly distinct way.

That’s why it’s mandatory to get your hearing evaluated by a seasoned hearing care professional. Without specialized testing, any hearing aids or amplification devices you buy will most likely not amplify the proper frequencies.

7. Normally, people wait 5 to 7 years before pursuing help for their hearing loss

Five to seven years is a long time to have to battle with your hearing.

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

  • Less than 16 percent of family physicians test for hearing loss.
  • Hearing loss is so gradual that it’s hard to notice.
  • Hearing loss is frequently partial, meaning some sounds can be heard normally, creating the impression of healthy hearing.
  • People believe that hearing aids don’t work, which takes us to the next fact.

8. Only 1 out of 5 people who would benefit from 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 false presumption that hearing aids don’t work.

Maybe this was accurate 10 to 15 years ago, but most certainly not today.

The evidence for hearing aid effectiveness has been widely reported. One example is a study performed by the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found three popular hearing aid models to “provide significant benefit in quiet and noisy listening situations.”

Patients have also noticed the benefits: The National Center for Biotechnology Information, after reviewing years of research, determined that “studies have shown that users are quite satisfied with their hearing aids.”

Similarly, the latest MarkeTrak consumer satisfaction survey discovered that, for patients with hearing aids four years of age or less, 78.6% were pleased with their hearing aid effectiveness.

9. More than 200 medications can bring about hearing loss

Here’s a little-known fact: specific medications can harm the ear, resulting in hearing loss, ringing in the ear, or balance problems. These medications are considered ototoxic.

In fact, there are more than 200 known ototoxic medications. For more information on the specific medications, visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

10. Professional musicians are 57 percent more likely to suffer from tinnitus

In one of the most extensive studies ever carried out on hearing disorders associated with musicians, researchers found that musicians are 57 percent more likely to suffer from tinnitus—chronic ringing in the ears—as a result of their work.

If you’re a musician, or if you attend live concerts, protecting your ears is essential. Talk to us about customized musicians earplugs that ensure both safe listening and preserved sound quality.

Which of the 10 facts was most surprising to you?

Let us know in a comment.