Hearing Loss in People With Good Hearing

Data from a recent CDC report shows that about 25% of adults who think they have good hearing have hearing damage.


About 1 in 4 American adults who say they have good or excellent hearing has hearing damage. According to a Vital Signs report, much of the damage is due to everyday loud sounds, such as leaf blowers, concerts, even portable devices. The rumble of a washing machine approaches the 85 decibels at which extended exposure can cause hearing damage. Sixty seconds of listening to a nearby siren (120 dB) also can cause hearing damage.

CDC researchers analyzed > 3,500 hearing tests conducted on adult participants in the 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Of those participants, 20% who reported no job-related noise exposure nonetheless had hearing damage in a pattern usually caused by noise.

People may delay reporting hearing loss because they don’t know or won’t admit they have a problem, the CDC says. Only 46% of adults who reported having trouble hearing saw a health care provider (HCP) for their hearing in the past 5 years. But chronic noise exposure has been associated with worsening heart disease, increased blood pressure, and other adverse health effects.

The CDC suggests HCPs ask patients (even those as young as 20) about their hearing. For instance, they can ask, “Do you find it difficult to follow a conversation if there is background noise?” and “Can you usually hear and understand what someone says in a normal tone of voice when you can’t see that person’s face?”

At routine health care visits, the CDC suggests HCPs explain to patients how noise exposure can permanently damage hearing. They also suggest recommending earplugs or noise-canceling headphones. About 70% of people exposed to loud noise never or seldom wear hearing protection, CDC says. The CDC suggests advising patients to turn down the volume when watching TV, listening to music, and using earbuds or headphones, as well as asking whether patients are taking medicines that increase the risk of hearing damage. If patients show or report hearing problems, the CDC suggests HCPs examine their hearing or refer them to a hearing specialist.

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