Quick question: how many individuals in the United States are suffering from some type of hearing loss?

What is your answer?

I’m prepared to bet, if I had to guess, that it was well short of the correct answer of 48 million individuals.

Let’s take a shot at another one. How many individuals in the United States younger than 65 are afflicted by hearing loss?

Most people are liable to underestimate this answer as well. The answer, together with 9 other alarming facts, might change the way you think about hearing loss.

1. 48 million individuals in the US have some amount of hearing loss

People are oftentimes shocked by this number, and they should be—this is 20 percent of the total US population! Reported another way, on average, one out of each five individuals you meet will have some degree of difficulty hearing.

2. More than 30 million Americans under the age of 65 have hearing loss

Of the 48 million people that have hearing loss in the US, it’s common to presume that the majority are 65 years and older.

But the truth is the reverse.

For those suffering from hearing loss in the US, roughly 62 percent are younger than 65.

The fact is, 1 in 6 baby boomers (ages 41-59), 1 in 14 Generation Xers (ages 29-40), 1.4 million children (18 or younger), and 2-3 out of 1,000 infants have some extent of hearing loss.

3. 1.1 billion teens and young adults are in danger of developing hearing loss worldwide

As reported by The World Health Organization:

“Some 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices, including smartphones, and exposure to damaging levels of sound at noisy entertainment venues such as nightclubs, bars and sporting events. Hearing loss has potentially devastating consequences for physical and mental health, education and employment.”

Which brings us to the next point…

4. Any sound above 85 decibels can harm hearing

1.1 billion individuals globally are in danger of developing hearing loss as a consequence of exposure to loud sounds. But what is considered to be loud?

Exposure to any noise over 85 decibels, for a prolonged period of time, can possibly result in irreversible hearing loss.

To put that into perspective, a typical conversation is about 60 decibels and city traffic is around 85 decibels. These sounds most likely won’t damage your hearing.

Motorcycles, on the other hand, can reach 100 decibels, power saws can achieve 110 decibels, and a rowdy rock concert can achieve 115 decibels. Young adults also have the tendency to listen to their iPods or MP3 players at around 100 decibels or higher.

5. 26 million people between the ages of 20 and 69 suffer from noise-induced hearing loss

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 15 percent of Americans (26 million people) between the ages of 20 and 69 suffer from hearing loss owing to exposure to loud sounds at work or during recreation activities.

So although growing old and genetics can result in hearing loss in older adults, noise-induced hearing loss is just as, if not more, dangerous.

6. Each person’s hearing loss is different

No two people have exactly the same hearing loss: we all hear an assortment of sounds and frequencies in a somewhat distinct way.

That’s why it’s mandatory to have your hearing tested by a seasoned hearing care professional. Without quality testing, any hearing aids or amplification products you buy will most likely not amplify the correct frequencies.

7. Normally, people wait 5 to 7 years before seeking help for their hearing loss

Five to seven years is a very long time to have to struggle with your hearing.

Why do people wait so long? There are in fact many reasons, but the main reasons are:

  • Less than 16 percent of family physicians screen for hearing loss.

  • Hearing loss is so gradual that it’s difficult to perceive.

  • Hearing loss is often partial, which means some sounds can be heard normally, creating the perception of normal hearing.

  • People believe that hearing aids don’t work, which brings us to the next fact.

8. Only 1 out of 5 people who could benefit from hearing aids wears them

For every five people who could live better with hearing aids, only one will actually wear them. The main reason for the disparity is the false assumption that hearing aids don’t work.

Perhaps this was accurate 10 to 15 years ago, but certainly not today.

The evidence for hearing aid effectiveness has been thoroughly reported. One example is a study conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found three popular hearing aid models to “provide significant benefit in quiet and noisy listening situations.”

People have also observed the benefits: The National Center for Biotechnology Information, after reviewing years of research, determined that “studies have shown that users are quite satisfied with their hearing aids.”

Likewise, a current MarkeTrak consumer satisfaction survey found that, for patients with hearing aids four years of age or less, 78.6% were pleased with their hearing aid performance.

9. More than 200 medications can cause hearing loss

Here’s a little-known fact: certain medications can damage the ear, causing hearing loss, ringing in the ear, or balance problems. These medications are considered ototoxic.

In fact, there are more than 200 identified ototoxic medications. For more information on the specific medications, visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

10. Professional musicians are 57 percent more liable to suffer from tinnitus

In one of the most extensive studies ever performed on hearing disorders linked to musicians, researchers found that musicians are 57 percent more likely to suffer from tinnitus—prolonged ringing in the ears—as a result of their jobs.

If you’re a musician, or if you attend live concerts, protecting your ears is essential. Ask us about customized musicians earplugs that assure both safe listening and preserved sound quality.

Which of the 10 facts was most surprising to you?

Tell us in a comment.