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Hearing Loss Facts

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

What was your answer?

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

Let’s take a shot at another one. How many people in the US under the age of 65 suffer from hearing loss?

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

1. 48 million people in the United States have some amount of hearing loss

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

2. More than 30 million Americans under the age of 65 suffer from hearing loss

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

But the truth is the reverse.

For those afflicted by 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 level of hearing loss.

3. 1.1 billion teens and young adults are at risk for hearing loss worldwide

As reported by 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 above 85 decibels can harm hearing

1.1 billion people globally are in danger of developing hearing loss due to exposure to loud sounds. But what is considered to be loud?

Exposure to any noise above 85 decibels, for an extensive period of time, can potentially result in irreversible hearing loss.

To put that into perspective, a regular conversation is around 60 decibels and city traffic is around 85 decibels. These sounds most likely won’t harm your hearing.

Motorcycles, on the other hand, can reach 100 decibels, power saws can achieve 110 decibels, and a rowdy rock concert can reach 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 individuals 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 are afflicted by hearing loss as a result of exposure to loud sounds at work or during recreation activities.

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

6. Each person’s hearing loss is different

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

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

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

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

Why do people wait that long? There are in truth many reasons, but the main reasons are:

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

8. Only 1 out of 5 individuals 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 principal explanation for the disparity is the incorrect assumption that hearing aids don’t work.

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

The evidence for hearing aid efficacy has been widely documented. One example is a study managed 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 experienced the benefits: The National Center for Biotechnology Information, after examining years of research, concluded that “studies have shown that users are quite satisfied with their hearing aids.”

Likewise, the latest MarkeTrak consumer satisfaction survey discovered that, for consumers with hearing aids four years old or less, 78.6% were pleased with their hearing aid performance.

9. More than 200 medications can bring about hearing loss

Here’s a little-known fact: certain medications can damage 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 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 largest studies ever conducted on hearing disorders associated with musicians, researchers discovered that musicians are 57 percent more likely to be affected by tinnitus—recurring ringing in the ears—as a result of their jobs.

If you’re a musician, or if you attend live events, defending your ears is critical. 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.