Awhile back, a piece was published in JAMA-Otolaryngology that projected the number of persons while hearing loss in the United States in the future (do you see what I did there? another fantastic title if I do say so myself). The piece received some interest from the press. Adele Goman, PhD, a member of the Lin Research Group at Johns Hopkins, was the lead author. I asked Adele to answer some questions about her piece so I could post it here. Enjoy!
How many people have hearing loss?
It’s quite likely that you know somebody with hearing loss. Maybe your mother, your husband, your friend, or even you have difficulty hearing, but just how common is hearing loss? Knowing how many people have hearing loss is important for the planning of hearing health care services. For example we can see if we have enough hearing experts (e.g. audiologists, hearing aid specialists) to meet demand or whether there is a need to train more people.
How many people have hearing loss today?
To estimate how many people have hearing loss on a national scale we looked at the results of a hearing test that was completed by almost ten thousand people. In the hearing test, sounds were presented at quieter and quieter volumes until the person taking the test could only just hear it. We used criteria from the World Health Organization to categorize people as having a hearing loss or not based on the quietest volume at which they heard the sounds. Our research estimates that 14.3% of Americans aged 12 and over have a hearing loss in both ears. That corresponds to about 38.2 million people over the age of 12 in the United States today. However, hearing loss was much more common in older adults so most of these people are over the age of 60.
How many people will have hearing loss in the future?
We know that the population is going to increase in the coming years, particularly among older age groups as baby boomers are reaching retirement age and beyond. Therefore we applied how common hearing loss is today to the population estimates of the future and looked at how many people would have hearing loss. We estimate that the number of adults in the United States aged 20 and over with hearing loss will increase from 44.1 million in 2020 to 73.5 million in 2060.
Why is the number getting bigger?
The number of people with hearing loss is predicted to get bigger because the population is growing and also aging. Today we know that almost 67% of adults over the age of 70 have hearing loss. We expect that this will still be the case in the future because in the last 40 years how common hearing loss is has not really changed. So although we expect that there will still be 67% of older adults with hearing loss in the future, there will simply be more adults over the age of 70 around because the population is aging. This means that the number of people with hearing loss will be bigger in 2060 than it is today.
Have a great day everyone!
Nicholas S. Reed