More than half of Canadians between the ages of 40 and 79 have at least a mild hearing loss, but 77% of them do not know it, according to a study by Statistics Canada.
The study found that the number of people whose hearing loss was obvious on a test was much larger than the number of people who reported having a hearing loss. In the study, only 6% said they had a hearing loss.
Audiometrically measured hearing loss
According to the study, an estimated 54% of Canadians aged 40 to 79 (8.2 million) have at least mild hearing loss in the high-frequency range (high frequency hearing loss) based on audiometric testing. Men are more likely than women to have hearing loss—63% versus 46%—as are older adults compared with those aged 40 to 59 years. For example, 93% of those aged 70 to 79 years had some kind of hearing loss, whereas the figure was 38% in the youngest group.
Self-reported hearing loss
Overall, only 6% of people aged 40 to 79 years were classified as having a hearing impairment, according to self-reported answers to the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) questions.
Unperceived hearing loss
Among the 8.2 million adults with audiometrically measured hearing loss, the majority (77% or 6.3 million) had unperceived hearing loss. Unperceived hearing loss was more common among individuals whose measured loss was in one ear, unilateral hearing loss, (86%) rather than in both ears, bilateral hearing loss (74%) and more common in those whose measured hearing loss was mild (93%) rather than moderate to profound (65%).
Tinnitus and hearing loss
For people who had experienced tinnitus (e.g., ringing in the ears), the odds of having unperceived hearing loss were 50% less than those who had never had tinnitus.
Men vs. women
Men were more likely than women to have unperceived hearing loss when age and hearing loss severity were taken into account.
About the study
The study used data collected from 2012 to 2015 as part of the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS). The study sample was composed of 3,964 respondents aged 40 to 79 with valid audiometric results for both ears.
In the study, unperceived hearing loss was defined by four criteria: audiometrically measured hearing loss, no self-reported hearing impairment, no use of hearing aids and no history of a hearing problem diagnosis.