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U.S. Blacks Hear Better Than Whites

And women's hearing usually beats that of men, study finds

FRIDAY, June 23, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Listen up, America: A new study finds that blacks have better hearing than whites, and women of all races tend to hear better than men.

Researchers at the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health also found that, even with significant advances in hearing technology, Americans' hearing levels remain stuck at where they were about 30 years ago.

The Cincinnati-based team studied the results of hearing tests administered across the United States between 1999 and 2004. Results of the study were presented at a recent meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Providence, R.I.

Five thousand people between the ages of 20 and 69 were administered hearing tests and identified themselves as a particular ethnicity. Each individual "hearing threshold," or the least amount of noise a person could hear, was recorded and noted along with their ethnicity.

Non-Hispanic black individuals had the best hearing thresholds, the researchers reported, while Mexican-Americans came in second, and non-Hispanic whites had the poorest hearing thresholds.

Although many factors that used to be a common part of American society are no longer threats to good hearing -- such as a lack of ear protection, or fewer high-decibel factory jobs that damage hearing -- technology is not doing much to help improve America's auditory abilities, the researchers said. They also noted that since the hearing tests were conducted and data analyzed between 1999 and 2004, the impact of portable MP3 players such as the iPod may not yet have taken it's toll on America's ears.

More information

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has more information on hearing tests.

SOURCES: American Institute of Physics, news release, June 13, 2006
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