According to the Archives of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery, at least 29 million Americans currently live with a hearing impairment. Hearing impairment is most common in older adults, the less educated, people who worked in a noisy environment, those who had had ear surgery and men.
A new study says one in nine middle aged adults struggles with some kind of hearing impairment.
The study, which published in the February 21, 2011 online edition of the Archives of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery was part of the Beaver Dam Offspring Study. The study looks at aging and its effects.
Researchers collected data on 3,285 men and women between the ages 21-84. The median age was 49. Out of the 2,837 adults tested for hearing; one in seven over the age of 21 had some degree of hearing loss. Also, hearing loss increased with age. Other research findings stated hearing impairment exceeded:
• 90 percent of adults 80 and older
• 40 percent in those 65 and older
• 25 percent of adults 55 to 64
• Nearly 11 percent of adults 45 to 54
• 6 percent of those between the ages of 35 and 44
In an interview with Reuters Health, Scott Nash, lead researcher of the University of Wisconsin, said, "These rates are high but unfortunately not all that surprising."
According to Dr. Peter Rabinowitz of Yale University, hearing loss "is a significant problem, even in middle age."
Researchers pointed out that hearing loss may be preventable. Also, middle-aged adults are not routinely screened for hearing loss by doctors.
Nash said, "We also found hearing loss was associated with some cardiovascular measures.
"One possible explanation for the connection between cardiovascular disease and hearing loss may be that disruptions or changes to blood flow that come with cardiovascular disease may lead to less oxygen in the inner ear or other parts of the auditory pathway."
According to Rabinowitz, other studies have also linked ear health to heart disease and stroke risk.
Rabinowitz said in an interview, "these findings provide additional evidence that such risk may be associated with hearing." He also noted the association makes sense since the inner ear depends on a rich supply of blood and research shows that when blood circulation is compromised, the ear can suffer.
Finally Nash said, "Hearing loss may not be an inevitable part of aging, and our findings, which are in line with other studies, point to the possibility that if we live healthier lifestyles, lifestyles that can reduce our chance of cardiovascular disease for example, we may be able to prevent or delay hearing loss."