Declining and fluctuating prevalence values of hearing impairment in 18-year old Swedish men during three decades

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Abstract

Objective:

To analyze time trends in prevalence of hearing impairment in almost complete birth cohorts of 18-year old Swedish men from 1970s up to 2010.

Study groups:

Before 1999, all 18-year old men, in Sweden, were called for a compulsory conscription examination. In 1971–1999, the participation rate in audiometry was 73–95%. After 1999, when exemption from conscription was allowed, the participation rate gradually declined to 52% in 2004. Samples with participation rates below 50% (2005–2010) were considered non-representative and excluded from the analyses.

Results:

High-frequency hearing impairments (HFHI) 35–40 dB HL and ≥45 dB HL showed a decreasing trend over the observed period, from a prevalence of 2.9% (35–40 dB HL) and 3.8% (≥45 dB HL) respectively in 1971 to 1.4% and 1.1% respectively in 2004. HFHI 25–30 dB HL, showed slow variations over time and decreased from 8.5% in 1971 to 3.2% in 1981 followed by an increase to 10.4% in 1992. After that year there was a decrease to 5.2% in 2004. The slow fluctuations affected only HFHI 25–30 dB HL, mainly at 6 kHz. The left ear was more affected than the right ear.

Conclusions:

The most important observation was a decrease of HFHI 35–40 dB HL by 52% percent and of HFHI ≥45 dB HL by 71% between the years 1971 and 2004. The prevalence of HFHI 25–30 dB HL in young Swedish males fluctuated over a period of 33 years. Possible reasons for these trends and variations are discussed.

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