Possible Hearing Loss Epidemic in America

A recent study indicates that more Americans are losing their hearing at a younger age. While it is common for people to have some hearing loss at age 70, hearing loss is not necessarily a given based solely upon age. There are many elderly people who have no hearing loss. The study indicates that personal listening devices are the reason that younger people are losing their hearing:

“The prevalence of hearing loss in the United States is predicted to rise significantly because of an aging population and the growing use of personal listening devices. Indeed, there is concern that we may be facing an epidemic of hearing impairment,” Dr. Yuri Agrawal of the Baltimore hospital wrote. Yahoo News

This is certainly the case and a lot of it deals with the reality that no one ever published guidelines about the safe listening levels for personal devices though the issue has been looked at since Sony introduced the Walkman. Recently, a study was conducted to determine safe listening times for different sound levels on these devices. The Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation (CAOHC) published the findings of a Fligor and Ives study on the devices in its Winter/Spring 2007 newsletter. The information regarding the study can be found on pages 9 and 10 of the newsletter. The chart provided lists the different types of earbuds/headphones and an appropriate time at each level. Depending on the device, the listening time can be as little as 3 minutes at 100% volume. This means that hearing can be damaged if that time is exceeded at that volume.

Personal listening devices are certainly prevalent in society and might very well account for the increase in hearing loss. However, there are a number of things people do daily that also require attention to hearing protection. Using lawnmowers, chainsaws, power tools, impact tools (such as hammers) and playing musical instruments are all hazardous to hearing. One does not have to go too far to see a neighbor cutting the grass without wearing the proper hearing protection.

Hearing Chart

This might seem trivial and often people indicate that they don’t have any pain so they must be OK. Noise induced hearing loss is painless, progressive, permanent, and preventable. This chart shows how hearing loss can affect how one perceives the different letters (thus the affect on perception of speech) and shows the noise generated by different items. The image is from the US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine (USACHPPM). That website contains a lot of information about hearing and hearing loss. Please take the time to look around if you are interested in how hearing is affected by noise and what you can do to prevent hearing loss (and the image at the source is much clearer).

The recent study indicates that hearing loss among Americans is increasing and the blame is placed on personal listening devices. While this is certainly accurate, the many hazards that have been around for years cannot be ignored. One other thing the study did not address. We have had a huge number of military members fighting in a war and wars are noisy. Troops are issued earplugs but sometimes, for a number of reasons, they are not used.

It is quite possible that the numbers will be even larger once those troops return home and we can accurately assess the impact of the war on their hearing.

If you have questions or would like further information please address them in the comments or send me an email using the contact form.

[addendum] If you wear hearing aids (or know someone who does) and want a good price on the batteries, let me know and I will tell you where you can get Energizer batteries for 69 cents a piece (40 for $27.55).

Noise and Hearing Loss Fact Sheet

Big Dog



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9 Responses to “Possible Hearing Loss Epidemic in America”

  1. Robert says:

    The real reason people are losing their hearing is because of all the BS on the air waves.. from Politics to Entertainment BS is running rampant.

    Roberts last blog post..Bush Ok’s an Execution of a Soldier???

  2. Big Dog says:

    You might be on to something. I am sure many people went deaf listening to Hillary Clinton…

  3. kender says:

    What? Did you say something, old man?

    kenders last blog post..Banning Trans Fats Hurts Bio Diesel Industry

  4. Ogre says:

    I’m pretty sure it’s Bush’s fault. Just ask Pete Townshend.

  5. My husband lost all the hearing his left ear following surgery for acoustic neuroma, a benign tumor but one which can kill as it grows inside the confines of the cranium.

    Yes, my husband is glad to be alive. But living without bilateral hearing isn’t easy. In fact, he’s lost more than one job because of the hearing deficit and his inability to sort out background noise from what he’s trying to listen to. He’d tell the world, “Take care of your hearing. Life is a bitch without it.”

    Always On Watchs last blog post..Beyond Preaching To The Choir — "Voices of Freedom" on KFNX News-Talk Radio 1100

  6. Reason says:

    I’ve experienced difficulty understanding people when there is background noise since I worked construction in my younger years. Like in the military ear plugs were available and recommended but you didn’t often want to wear them for other reasons.

    Working high steel you want to be able to hear if someone yelled “look out!” or for other noises that might indicate danger may be coming your way.

  7. Big Dog says:

    Interestingly, hearing protection actually allows you to hear better under those conditions. but if you don’t use it then one day you won’t be able to hear the shout at all…

  8. Reason says:

    Really? In my personal experience (and that of other people I worked with) it was difficult to hear much beyond someone speaking very loudly close by. If someone was yelling up from the ground or on the radio you couldn’t hear them with the plugs in. If someone was wearing them you had to get their attention by some other means, wait for them to remove the plugs and then tell them what you needed to.

    Perhaps it was the protection provided, but that is my own experience.