Trends in the Prevalence of Hearing Loss Among Young Adults Entering An Industrial Workforce 1985 to 2004

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Abstract

Objectives:

Studies have suggested that hearing loss due to recreational noise exposure may be on the rise among adolescents and young adults. This study examines whether the hearing status of young US adults entering an industrial workforce has worsened over the past 20 yr.

Design:

The baseline audiograms of 2526 individuals ages 17 to 25 beginning employment at a multisite US corporation between 1985 and 2004 were analyzed to determine the yearly prevalence of hearing loss.

Results:

Approximately 16% of the young adults in the sample had high frequency hearing loss (defined as hearing thresholds greater than 15 dB in either ear at 3,4, or 6 kHz). In a linear regression model, this prevalence decreased over the 20-yr period (odds ratio (OR) = 0.96, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.94, 0.99). Almost 20% of subjects had audiometric “notches” consistent with noise exposure; this rate remained constant over the 20 yr, as did the prevalence (5%) of low frequency hearing loss.

Conclusions:

These results indicate that despite concern about widespread recreational noise exposures, the prevalence of hearing loss among a group of young US adults has not significantly increased over the past two decades.

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