Wednesday, August 18, 2010

1 in 5 teenagers suffer some degree of hearing loss; not music to my ears!

Sorry for the technical tone to this post...I wrote it up as part of a newsletter for the American College of Preventive Medicine. Enjoy and feel free to comment or ask questions. :)

According to a cross-sectional study published in this week’s JAMA, the prevalence of slight to mild hearing loss among US adolescents is on the rise. The Harvard-affiliated researchers compared the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, from 2005-2006, to NHANES III data from 1988-1994, citing a 31% increased prevalence in hearing loss among subjects since NHANES III. This increase in prevalence was observed in all, high-frequency, unilateral, and bilateral hearing loss of slight or mild or greater intensity. It was not observed with low-frequency hearing loss. The prevalence of mild or worse hearing loss (defined by a decrease in hearing by 25 decibels or more) was significantly higher (P < .001) in NHANES 2005-2006 than in the 1988-1994 survey, representing a 77% increase in prevalence. No significant differences, including self-reported number of ear infections, exposure to more than or equal to 5 hours of loud noise per week and exposure to firearms, existed between the two groups surveyed.

These findings were unexpected given numerous public health measures to reduce hearing loss among children and adolescents, including vaccination against Haemophilus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae as well as greater awareness of music-induced hearing loss. Although it is unclear as to the etiology of these findings, a possible connection between loud personal music systems and hearing loss cannot be ruled out and must be further investigated. The implications of the study are important for the fields of education, public health and child development.

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