Prevalence of Hearing Loss by Severity in the United States

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Abstract

Objectives

To estimate the age- and severity-specific prevalence of hearing impairment in the United States.

Methods

We conducted cross-sectional analyses of 2001 through 2010 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey on 9648 individuals aged 12 years or older. Hearing loss was defined as mild (> 25 dB through 40 dB), moderate (> 40 dB through 60 dB), severe (> 60 dB through 80 dB), or profound (> 80 dB).

Results

An estimated 25.4 million, 10.7 million, 1.8 million, and 0.4 million US residents aged 12 years or older, respectively, have mild, moderate, severe, and profound better-ear hearing loss. Older individuals displayed a higher prevalence of hearing loss and more severe levels of loss. Across most ages, the prevalence was higher among Hispanic and non-Hispanic Whites than among non-Hispanic Blacks and was higher among men than women.

Conclusions

Hearing loss directly affects 23% of Americans aged 12 years or older. The majority of these individuals have mild hearing loss; however, moderate loss is more prevalent than mild loss among individuals aged 80 years or older.

Public Health Implications

Our estimates can inform national public health initiatives on hearing loss and help guide policy recommendations currently being discussed at the Institute of Medicine and the White House.

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