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Hearing Loss May Be More Widespread Than Thought

White, Mexican-American men at highest risk, survey shows

MONDAY, July 28, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Hearing loss among American adults may be more common than previously reported, a new study says.

The researchers evaluated 1999 to 2004 survey data from 5,742 people, ages 20 to 69. From 2003 to 2004, 16.1 percent (an estimated 29 million) of American adults had speech frequency hearing loss in one (8.9 percent) or both (7.3 percent) ears, and 31 percent (an estimated 55 million) had high-frequency hearing loss (12 percent in one ear and 19 percent in both ears), the study found.

Hearing loss, especially at high frequency, was identified in 8.5 percent of people ages 20 to 29 and in 17 percent of those ages 30 to 39. Men were 5.5 times more likely than women to have hearing loss. White and Mexican-American men had the highest rates of high-frequency hearing loss and hearing loss in both ears. Blacks were 70 percent less likely than whites to have hearing loss.

"Increases in hearing loss prevalence occurred earlier among participants with smoking, noise exposure and cardiovascular risks," wrote Dr. Yuri Agrawal, of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, and colleagues.

The findings were published in the July 28 issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

"The results of our study suggest that prevention (through risk factor reduction) and screening must begin at least in young adulthood and that efforts should be intensified among white and Mexican-American men," the researchers concluded.

They noted that hearing loss reduces health-related quality of life and access to health care. Reducing the incidence of hearing loss through prevention and management programs may produce public health benefits, the study authors said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has more about hearing loss.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, July 28, 2008
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