Nearly one in every five American suffers from hearing-related problems, making it a more serious issue than originally thought, according to the authors of a study published Monday.
Over 48 million U.S. residents are hearing impaired, and how we listen to music is partly to blame, according to a study, published in the November issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. Frank Lin, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, headed the study.
The researchers tracked hearing loss patterns starting in 1971 using data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) in addition to hearing test samples of Americans aged 12 and older. The results showed nearly 13 percent of Americans suffered from hearing problems in both ears and 20 percent in a single ear.
It's a growing concern, Lin said, of figures were greater more than earlier assessments. Those suggested that approximately 21 to 29 million people suffered similar problems.
Aging and genetics do sometimes play a role, but what we know now is that environmental exposures - like listening to music too loudly - can contribute to long term hearing damage over time, Lin told CNN. It's pretty jaw-dropping how big it is, Lin said, referring to the new statistics.
Most people begin having problems hearing in their 50s. However, at the time, they usually do not notice it, since its onset is very slow. By the time the person is in the 60s, he/she tends to ignore it since he/she has learnt to live with it, accepting the condition as an inevitable part of aging, Lin said.
If a 10-year-old has mild-to-moderate hearing loss, universally clinicians, insurers, and society say we've got to treat it, but if you have the same hearing loss in someone who is 60, universally you get a shrug, Lin said. That person still has to go to board meetings and hear people over dinner. But we don't think it's important for him to get treated.
Listening to music at high volumes or being exposed to high pitched sounds aggravates hearing problems amongst younger people.
The tricky thing about loud noise exposure is that most people won't see the impact for many years later, so the consumers aren't aware they are damaging their hearing until it's too late, he said.
Once the ear cells in the ear are damaged, it can't be replaced. It's permanent hearing damage, he said. In addition, the problem of hearing loss is also associated with other memory-related issues, including a loss of cognition and dementia.
The risk of hearing loss doubles every 10 years a person ages, according to U.S. News and World Report. African-Americans and women are less likely to suffer from the condition, the report stated.