Hearing Loss Facts

Quick question: how many people in the United States are afflicted with some form of hearing loss?

What was your answer?

I’m inclined to bet, if I had to guess, that it was short of the correct answer of 48 million people.

Let’s try one more. How many people in the US under the age of 65 are suffering from hearing loss?

Most people are apt to underestimate this one as well. The correct answer, along with 9 other alarming facts, may change the way you think about hearing loss.

1. 48 million individuals in the US have some level of hearing loss

People are often shocked by this number, and they should be—this is 20 percent of the entire US population! Expressed a different way, on average, one out of each five individuals you meet will have some measure of trouble hearing.

2. At least 30 million Americans under the age of 65 suffer from hearing loss

Out of the 48 million people that have hearing loss in the US, it’s natural to presume that the vast majority are 65 years and older.

But the truth is the opposite.

For those suffering with hearing loss in the US, approximately 62 percent are younger than 65.

In fact, 1 in 6 baby boomers (ages 41-59), 1 in 14 Generation Xers (ages 29-40), 1.4 million children (18 or younger), and 2-3 out of 1,000 infants have some form of hearing loss.

3. 1.1 billion teens and young adults are at risk for hearing loss worldwide

As reported by The World Health Organization:

“Some 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices, including smartphones, and exposure to damaging levels of sound at noisy entertainment venues such as nightclubs, bars and sporting events. Hearing loss has potentially devastating consequences for physical and mental health, education and employment.”

Which brings us to the next fact…

4. Any sound over 85 decibels can harm hearing

1.1 billion individuals worldwide are at risk for hearing loss caused by subjection to loud sounds. But what is regarded as loud?

Subjection to any sound above 85 decibels, for an extensive amount of time, can potentially bring about irreversible hearing loss.

To put that into perspective, a typical conversation is about 60 decibels and city traffic is around 85 decibels. These sounds most likely won’t harm your hearing.

Motorcycles, however, can reach 100 decibels, power saws can achieve 110 decibels, and a loud rock concert can achieve 115 decibels. Young adults also are inclined to listen to their iPods or MP3 players at around 100 decibels or higher.

5. 26 million individuals between the ages of 20 and 69 are afflicted by noise-induced hearing loss

As reported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 15 percent of Americans (26 million people) between the ages of 20 and 69 suffer from hearing loss owing to exposure to loud sounds at work or during recreation activities.

So while growing old and genetics can trigger hearing loss in older adults, noise-induced hearing loss is just as, if not more, hazardous.

6. Everyone’s hearing loss is different

No two people have precisely the equivalent hearing loss: we all hear an assortment of sounds and frequencies in a somewhat distinct way.

That’s why it’s crucial to get your hearing analyzed by a seasoned hearing care professional. Without specialized testing, any hearing aids or amplification devices you buy will most likely not amplify the proper frequencies.

7. Normally, people wait 5 to 7 years before pursuing help for their hearing loss

Five to seven years is a long time to have to struggle with your hearing loss.

Why do people wait so many years? There are in truth several reasons, but the main ones are:

  • Fewer than 16 percent of family doctors test for hearing loss.
  • Hearing loss is so gradual that it’s difficult to perceive.
  • Hearing loss is often partial, meaning some sounds can be heard normally, creating the impression of healthy hearing.
  • People believe that hearing aids don’t work, which takes us to the next fact.

8. Only 1 out of 5 people who would reap the benefits of hearing aids wears them

For every five people who could live better with hearing aids, only one will actually wear them. The principal reason for the disparity is the incorrect assumption that hearing aids don’t work.

Maybe this was true 10 to 15 years ago, but certainly not today.

The evidence for hearing aid effectiveness has been extensively documented. One example is a study performed by the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found three popular hearing aid models to “provide significant benefit in quiet and noisy listening situations.”

Patients have also noticed the benefits: The National Center for Biotechnology Information, after reviewing years of research, concluded that “studies have shown that users are quite satisfied with their hearing aids.”

Likewise, the latest MarkeTrak consumer satisfaction survey discovered that, for patients with hearing aids four years old or less, 78.6% were satisfied with their hearing aid effectiveness.

9. More than 200 medications can trigger hearing loss

Here’s a little-known fact: certain medications can damage the ear, resulting in hearing loss, ringing in the ear, or balance problems. These medications are considered ototoxic.

In fact, there are more than 200 identified ototoxic medications. For more information on the specific medications, visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

10. Professional musicians are 57 percent more liable to suffer with tinnitus

In one of the most extensive studies ever conducted on hearing disorders linked to musicians, researchers found that musicians are 57 percent more likely to suffer from tinnitus—continuous ringing in the ears—as a result of their jobs.

If you’re a musician, or if you participate in live concerts, protecting your ears is crucial. Ask us about custom musicians earplugs that ensure both safe listening and preserved sound quality.


Which of the 10 facts was most surprising to you?

Tell us in a comment.