Exposure to everyday noise is causing permanent damage to many Americans’ hearing, according to a new report from the CDC.
The authors analyzed data from 3,583 participants, ages 20 to 69, in the 2011–2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a health interview and survey of U.S. citizens. All the participants had undergone hearing tests and answered questions about their exposure to loud noise.
The researchers found that nearly one in four adults had what’s known as an audiometric notch—a diminished ability to hear at higher frequencies, which is considered evidence of noise-induced hearing loss. That was true even among adults who reported that they had excellent or good hearing. Among people who reported exposure to loud noise at work, almost one-third had evidence of hearing loss. More men than women had evidence of hearing loss, whether or not they were exposed to loud noise at work. In general, the more exposure to loud noise people had at work or at home, the more likely they were to show signs of hearing loss, even if they were not aware of it.
Hearing loss is a significant health problem that can lead to reduced cognitive function and social isolation. While age-related hearing loss can’t be prevented, most causes of noise-induced hearing loss—such as loud working conditions or listening to music at high volumes—are preventable, the authors pointed out. They called for better educating people on ways to prevent noise exposure, such as using hearing protection devices during loud activities and lowering the volume on headphones or ear buds.
Also see How Noise Harms Our Health.