Prevalence of Hearing Loss Among Children 6 to 19 Years of Age: The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

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Abstract

Context

Hearing loss in children influences the development of communication and behavioral skills, but few studies in the United States have used pure-tone audiometry to derive hearing loss prevalence estimates for children.

Objective

To describe the prevalence of hearing loss among US children by sociodemographic characteristics, reported hearing loss, and audiometric screening factors.

Design

National population-based cross-sectional survey with an in-person interview and audiometric testing at 0.5 to 8 kHz.

Main Outcome Measure

Hearing loss, defined as audiometric threshold values of at least 16-dB hearing level based on a low or high pure-tone average.

Results

A total of 14.9% of children had low-frequency or high-frequency hearing loss of at least 16-dB hearing level, 7.1% had low-frequency hearing loss of at least 16-dB hearing level, and 12.7% had high-frequency hearing loss of at least 16-dB hearing level. Most hearing loss was unilateral and slight in severity (16- to 25-dB hearing level). Of those with measured hearing loss, 10.8% were reported to have current hearing loss during the interview.

Conclusions

This analysis indicates that 14.9% of US children have low-frequency or high-frequency hearing loss of at least 16-dB hearing level in 1 or both ears. Among children in elementary, middle, and high school, audiometric screening should include low-frequency and high-frequency testing to detect hearing loss.

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