01 August 2011

High rates of hearing loss - even for those in middle age

Among people aged 45 to 54, one in nine shows signs of hearing impairment, a US study reveals. In general, one in seven has lost some degree of hearing.

A study by University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison has found that, among the participants, hearing loss affected 6% of those between the ages of 35 and 44, nearly 11% of adults aged 45 to 54, and more than 25% of adults aged 55 to 64. Among those 65 and older, the prevalence is 40%. Almost all of those older than 80 - about 90% - had lost some hearing.

Contributing factors
In the study, hearing impairment was more likely in men, in participants with lower education levels, and in those working in noisy occupations or with a history of ear surgery, the authors report.

Factors that contribute to hearing loss include working in a noisy environment, having a parent who had hearing loss, and, possibly, heart disease. Hearing loss is associated with difficulty communicating, a poor quality of life, dementia and cognitive problems, the study authors noted.

Healthier lifestyles
"Hearing loss may not be an inevitable part of aging, and our findings, which are in line with other studies, point to the possibility that if we live healthier lifestyles, lifestyles that can reduce our chance of cardiovascular disease for example, we may also be able to prevent or delay hearing loss," said lead researcher Scott D. Nash of University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison.

Scott D. Nash and his colleagues analysed the data collected as part of the Beaver Dam Offspring Study, an epidemiological study of aging. The study included 3,285 participants ranging in age from 21 to 84 years, with an average age of 49. The researchers evaluated hearing impairment as a pure-tone average greater than 25 decibels hearing level in either ear. They also measured word recognition at different sound levels with male and female voices.

The report was published in the online edition of the Archives of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery.

Sources: www.reuters.com; www.businessweek.com and www.eurekalert.org

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