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Hearing Loss More Prevalent Than Previously Reported

Rate appears to be increasing even among 20-somethings

MONDAY, July 28 (HealthDay News) -- The prevalence of hearing loss is greater than previously reported, and hearing loss prevention needs to be implemented early, according to an article published in the July 28 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Yuri Agrawal, M.D., of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and colleagues examined the prevalence of hearing loss among U.S. adults by using the audiometric component of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2004. There were 5,742 participants (aged 20 to 69), and they were evaluated by demographic characteristics and known risk factors for hearing loss (smoking, noise exposure and cardiovascular risks).

The researchers found that 16.1 percent of the subjects suffered from speech-frequency hearing loss, representing 29 million Americans -- 1 million more than previous estimates. The rate of hearing loss in the 20- to 29-year-old age group also appears to be increasing. Male gender and white race were both significant predictors of hearing loss. Presence of risk factors for hearing loss such as smoking, noise exposure and cardiovascular risks led to an increased prevalence of hearing loss in younger patients.

"Hearing loss is more prevalent among US adults than previously reported. The prevalence of US hearing loss differs across racial/ethnic groups, and our data demonstrate associations with risk factors identified in prior smaller-cohort studies," the authors write. "Our findings also suggest that hearing loss prevention (through modifiable risk factor reduction) and screening should begin in young adulthood."

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