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Number of people in US with hearing loss expected to nearly double in coming decades

The JAMA Network Journals

In a study published online by JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, Adele M. Goman, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md., and colleagues used U.S. population projection estimates with current prevalence estimates of hearing loss to estimate the number of adults expected to have a hearing loss through 2060.

Hearing loss is a major public health issue independently associated with higher health care costs, accelerated cognitive decline, and poorer physical functioning. More than two-thirds of adults 70 years or older in the United States have clinically meaningful hearing loss. With an aging society, the number of persons with hearing loss will grow, increasing the demand for audiologic health care services. The proportion of adults 20 years or older in the United States with hearing loss has been previously estimated using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. These estimates were applied to 10-year population estimates from 2020 through 2060.

The researchers found that the number of adults in the United States 20 years or older with hearing loss is expected to gradually increase from 44 million in 2020 (15 percent of adults) to 74 million by 2060 (23 percent of adults). This increase is greatest among older adults. In 2020, 55 percent of all adults with hearing loss will be 70 years or older; in 2060, that statistic will be 67 percent. The number of adults with moderate or greater hearing loss will gradually increase during the next 43 years.

"These projections can inform policy makers and public health researchers in planning appropriately for the future audiologic hearing health care needs of society," the authors write.

"Given the projected increase in the number of people with hearing loss that may strain future resources, greater attention to primary (reducing incidence of hearing loss), secondary (reducing progression of hearing loss), and tertiary (treating hearing loss to reduce functional sequelae) prevention strategies is needed to address this major public health issue."

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(JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. Published online March 2, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2016.4642. The study is available pre-embargo at the For The Media website.)

Editor's Note: This study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and by the Eleanor Schwartz Charitable Foundation. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, etc.

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