Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Affects More Than 50% Not in Noisy Jobs

By Yishane Lee

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made an announcement Feb. 7 on the dangers of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). Among the many statistics cited, the CDC says:

  • 40 million U.S. adults ages 20 to 79 have NIHL

  • More than half (21 million) with hearing damage do not have noisy jobs

  • One in four U.S. adults who say they have good or excellent hearing actually show hearing damage

  • Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition in the U.S.

  • People report hearing loss at a rate nearly double of those reporting diabetes or cancer

The CDC says its latest Vital Signs report, using data from more than 3,500 hearing tests in the 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), shows “much of this [hearing] damage is from loud sounds encountered during everyday activities at home and in the community,” such as using a leaf blower or going to a loud concert without hearing protection. Nearly three-quarters of those who are exposed to loud noises never or rarely use hearing protection, the report says.

According to the press release, CDC researchers “found that 20 percent of people who reported no job-related noise exposure had hearing damage in a pattern usually caused by noise. This damage—shown by a distinctive drop in the ability to hear high-pitched sounds—appeared as early as age 20.” But it added that while a few studies have linked noise exposure among young people to the use of portable devices and entertainment venues, more research is needed to determine the relationship between this type of early noise exposure and hearing loss in older age.

Untreated hearing loss is linked with anxiety, depression, loneliness, and stress, the CDC says. In addition to causing hearing loss, chronic noise exposure can worsen heart disease and increase blood pressure, among other adverse health effects.

But don’t forget, noise is the only fully preventable cause of hearing loss.

Please see HHF’s resources on NIHL here, as well as our Summer 2015 cover story about NIHL. Taking care of your hearing should always be part of your overall health. If you suspect a hearing loss, get your hearing checked, and if you do have a hearing loss, get it treated. Avoid noisy areas, and wear protective earplugs or stronger when you need them in noisy environments. Download the CDC’s fact sheet here.

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