Prevalence of Hearing Loss Among Children 9 to 11 Years Old: The Generation R Study

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Hearing loss (HL), a major cause of disability globally, negatively affects both personal and professional life.


To describe the prevalence of sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) among a population-based cohort of 9- to 11-year-old children, and to examine potential associations between purported risk factors and SNHL in early childhood.

Design, Setting, and Participants

The study was among the general, nonclinical, pediatric community within the city of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and was conducted between 2012 and 2015 as a cross-sectional assessment within the Generation R Study, a population-based longitudinal cohort study from fetal life until adulthood. Participants are children of included pregnant women in the Generation R Study with an expected delivery date between April 2002 and January 2006. They form a prenatally recruited birth cohort.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Pure-tone air-conduction hearing thresholds were obtained at 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 8 kHz, and tympanometry was performed in both ears. Demographic factors and parent-reported questionnaire data, including history of otitis media, were also measured.


A total of 5368 participants with a mean age of 9 years 9 months (interquartile range, 9 years 7 months–9 years 11 months) completed audiometry and were included in the analyses. A total of 2720 were girls (50.7%), and 3627 (67.6%) were white. Most of the participants (4426 children [82.5%]) showed normal hearing thresholds 15 dB HL or less in both ears. Within the cohort, 418 children (7.8%) were estimated to have SNHL (≥16 dB HL at low-frequency pure-tone average; average at 0.5, 1, and 2 kHz or high-frequency pure-tone average; average at 3, 4, and 6 kHz in combination with a type A tympanogram) in at least 1 ear, most often at higher frequencies. In multivariable analyses, a history of recurrent acute otitis media and lower maternal education were associated with the estimated SNHL at ages 9 to 11 years (odds ratio, 2.0 [95% CI. 1.5-2.8] and 1.4 [95% CI, 1.1-1.7], respectively).

Conclusions and Relevance

Within this cohort study in the Netherlands, 7.8% of the children ages 9 to 11 years had low-frequency or high-frequency HL of at least 16 dB HL in 1 or both ears. A history of recurrent acute otitis media and lower maternal education seem to be independent risk factors for presumed SNHL in early childhood.

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