Better Hearing Institute

 


Hearing Health Fact Sheet
Some Basic Facts

Prevalence

  • More than 34 million Americans (roughly 11 percent of the U.S. population) have hearing loss.
  • Over the past generation, hearing loss among Americans has increased at a rate of 160 percent of U.S. population growth.
  • Six out of ten Americans with hearing loss are below retirement age. Hearing loss frequently occurs among younger people due to exposure to loud music or noises.

Medical Implications and Attention

  • Hearing loss is an unaddressed health condition.  
  • Fewer than 15 percent of those who received a physical exam in the last year said they received a hearing screening by their physician or nurse during that exam.
  • Numerous studies link untreated hearing loss to a wide range of physical and emotional conditions, including irritability, anger, fatigue, tension, stress, depression, avoidance or withdrawal from social situations, social rejection and loneliness, reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety, impaired memory, reduced job performance and earning power, and diminished overall health.
  • In children, even a mild hearing loss can have a negative impact on language competence, cognitive development, social and emotional well-being, and academic achievement.
  • There is no universal hearing loss screening program for children or adults in America.
  • Hearing aids are not covered under Medicare or under the vast majority of state health benefit programs.
  • Private insurance coverage for hearing aids is limited for adults, and only 15 states have enacted insurance mandates covering children.

Hearing Aid usage

  • More than 95 percent of those with hearing loss could benefit from hearing aids.
  • Only 4 in 10 people with moderate-to-severe hearing loss use hearing aids.  Just 1 in 10 people with mild hearing loss use hearing aids.
  • Advances in digital technology have dramatically improved hearing aids. Hearing aids are smaller, with better sound quality. They provide greater clarity and directionality, better speech audibility, better cell phone compatibility, and less whistling and feedback then hearing aids of the past.
  • Most people who use hearing aids waited nearly seven years after they initially learned about their hearing loss to obtain a hearing aid, and they already lost so much hearing that their quality of life was affected.
  • For people who do choose to use hearing aids, the most common reasons cited for using them were the perception that their hearing loss was getting worse (55.4%) and the influence of family members (51%).
  • Fewer than 7 percent of people who use hearing aids say their family doctor influenced their decision to use a hearing aid.

Common Signs and Symptoms

The signs of hearing loss can be subtle and emerge slowly, or they can be significant and come on suddenly. Either way, there are common indications.

  • Socially, individuals with hearing loss may:
    require frequent repetition;
    have difficulty following conversations involving more than two people;
    think that other people sound muffled or mumble;
    have difficulty hearing in noisy situations, like conferences, restaurants, malls, or crowded meeting rooms;
    have trouble hearing children and women;
    keep the TV or radio turned up to a high volume;
    answer or respond inappropriately in conversations;
    have ringing in their ears; and/or
    read lips or more intently watch people's faces when in conversation.
  • Emotionally, individuals with hearing loss may:
    feel stressed from straining to hear what others are saying;
    feel annoyed at others because they can't hear or understand them;
    feel embarrassed when meeting new people or after misunderstanding what others are saying;
    feel nervous about trying to hear and understand; and/or
    withdraw from social situations that they once enjoyed.
  • Medically, individuals with hearing loss may:
    have a family history of hearing loss;
    take medications that can harm the hearing system (ototoxic drugs);
    have diabetes, heart, circulation, or thyroid problems; and/or
    have been exposed to very loud sounds over a long period or suffered a single exposure to explosive noise.