The findings of a new report from federal health officials suggests that many more people suffer hearing loss than previously believed, including many adults under the age of 30, and noise-related hearing loss that was not job-related.
In the latest edition of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vital Signs report, researchers indicate that one in four adults who said they have good or excellent hearing, in fact, have hearing damage.
Researchers from the CDC, National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders, and the National Institutes of Health conducted a survey of adults. More than 3,500 hearing tests were conducted on adults in 2012 as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Overall, 1 in 5 adults ages 20 to 29 experienced hearing loss, and 1 in 4 adults ages 50 to 59 also had hearing loss. Noise related hearing loss was also more common among men.
More than half of the adults with noise-induced hearing damage reported the loud noise exposure did not occur on the job. Many of the adults affected by hearing loss sustained the damage from loud sounds encountered at home during everyday activities or within the community.
More than 20% of adults who reported noise exposure that was not job-related had hearing damage in a pattern usually caused by loud noise. Researchers indicated the damage showed a distinctive drop in the ability to hear high-pitched sounds and it appeared as early as age 20.
The study suggests that about 25% of adults who claim to have good or excellent hearing, actually are suffering from hearing damage.
The CDC warned that unless your hearing is tested, it’s hard to know if it’s damaged.
“40 million Americans show some hearing damage from loud noise, with nearly 21 million reporting no exposure to loud noise at work,” CDC Acting Director Dr. Anne Schuchat said in a press release. “This can be distressing for people affected and their loved ones. We hope this report will help raise awareness of this problem and help clinicians reduce their patients’ risk for early hearing loss.”
Researchers warn too much noise at home or in other places, like noise from leaf blowers or loud music, can damage hearing just as much as noise from the work place, like that from heavy machinery.
Research from recent studies indicate young people are exposed to loud sounds in many ways beyond loud concerts, like that from portable devices and car stereos, exposing them to more opportunities for diminished hearing.
Hearing loss is the third most commonly reported chronic health condition in the U.S. Untreated hearing loss is commonly linked to anxiety, depression, loneliness, and stress. The cost of hearing loss treatment for the first year in adults is estimated to reach $51 billion by 2030.
The CDC warns adults who are concerned about hearing loss should avoid noisy places and situations, use earplugs, protective ear muffs or noise-canceling headphones, and remember to keep the volume down when watching television, listening to music and using headphones. Adults can also ask their doctor for a hearing checkup.