Research Indicates Decline in Hearing by Age 71

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Of the individuals that participated in the study, 65.3% reported hearing loss at 71 years and 96.2% reported hearing loss by 90 years.

New research from the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS) analyzed the national prevalence of hearing loss within older adults to measure common hearing loss by age and demographics, along with hearing aid use.

Hearing sound test loss adult disorder aid | Image credit: BillionPhotos.com - stock.adobe.com

Hearing sound test | Image credit: BillionPhotos.com - stock.adobe.com

The study estimated hearing loss by age, gender, race and ethnicity, education, and income while also using data from the 2021 NHATS. The data were collected from June to November of 2021 and assessed from November to December of 2022.

The national estimates were collected from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys (NHANES). The study found that the data collected is almost a decade old and lacks information on adults older than 80 years and did not have accurate data due to self-reports. In this new cohort study, the researchers focused on Medicare beneficiaries, and the current participants were 71 years and older.

Out of the 3817 participants, 2803 (representing 21.5 million individuals) were involved in hearing measures that were guided in their homes using an iPad, portable audiometers, and sound attenuating headphones.

“Trained technicians used a software-assisted algorithm that mimics clinical best-practice guidelines to identify the lowest volume, measured in decibels hearing level (dBHL), at which a participant could reliably respond to the presented tones. Data were collected in each ear at 0.5, 1.0, 2.0, 4.0, and 8.0 kHz,” said the authors in a press release.

The results were categorized as better-hearing ear (hearing loss in both ears), worse-hearing ear (hearing loss in 1 ear), no hearing loss, moderate, and severe or greater hearing loss. The use of hearing aids was also tracked by asking the participants if they have used a hearing aid or other hearing device in the last month.

The hearing measures allowed the researchers to analyze the national prevalence of hearing loss of the better-hearing and worse-hearing ears by using age and the severity of the hearing. Then, the researchers were able to define the use of hearing aids for hearing loss in the older adults, connecting population numbers to both assessments.

The results provided by the study estimated that around 7 out of 10 individuals that are 71 years and older had hearing loss. However, the amount of loss increased with age as nearly all the participants had hearing loss by 85 years of age. Despite this, less than 30% of the individuals reported use of hearing aids.

The study established certain demographics that had a higher prevalence of hearing loss, starting with male participants reported to have more hearing loss than women — 69.7% for males and 61.6% for females. White individuals reported 67%, Black individuals reported 55.8%, and Hispanic individuals reported 59.3%. Hearing loss also increased with age for each demographic.

The use of hearing aids for those with hearing loss was 29.2%. The study confirmed that the male participants were more likely to use hearing aids compared to female participants. White and Hispanic participants were more likely to use hearing aids compared to Black participants. Individuals with higher education and greater income were also reported to use hearing aids compared to the participants with less income.

Reference:

Prevalence of Hearing Loss and Hearing Aid Use Among US Medicare Beneficiaries Aged 71 Years and Older. Jama Network. News release. July 28, 2023. Accessed August 2, 2023. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2807708.

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