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Nearly 60% of Older Americans Have Hearing Loss

Risk factors include higher blood pressure, occupational noise exposure, smoking

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Hearing loss is present in nearly 60% of elderly Americans, and it is more common in whites than blacks, according to a study published in the December issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Elizabeth P. Helzner, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, Penn., and colleagues evaluated 2,052 Medicare beneficiaries aged 73 to 84, including 660 white men (32.2%), 631 white women (30.8%), 310 black men (15.1%) and 451 black women (22%). They defined hearing loss as a pure-tone average of 500, 1,000, and 2,000 Hz greater than 25-decibel hearing level, and an average of 2,000, 4,000 and 8,000 Hz greater than 40-decibel high-frequency hearing loss.

The researchers found a high prevalence of hearing loss (59.9%) and high-frequency hearing loss (76.9%). Hearing loss was most common in white men (64.9%), followed by white women (59.3%), black men (58.1%) and black women (55%). White men also had the highest prevalence of high-frequency hearing loss (91.8%), followed by black men (76.1%), white women (74.2%) and black women (59.2%). Risk factors included higher blood pressure and occupational noise exposure (white men), poorer cognitive status and smoking (black women) and low total hip bone mineral density (black men).

"The high prevalence of hearing loss in this population underscores the importance of routine audiometry in older adults," the authors conclude.

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