According to a groundbreaking study conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, the prevalence of bilateral hearing loss in the United States varies significantly by state and county. This study, titled “Sound Check,” is the first of its kind to map hearing loss rates across the country.
The results of the study indicate that certain demographic factors and occupations are associated with higher rates of hearing loss. Men, non-Hispanic whites, and individuals residing in rural areas were found to have higher rates of hearing loss. The states with the highest rates of hearing loss were West Virginia, Alaska, Wyoming, Oklahoma, and Arizona, while the District of Columbia, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, and Connecticut had the lowest rates.
In addition, the study identified specific occupations that are significantly associated with hearing loss. Apart from mining, retail and restaurant settings were found to have a higher prevalence of hearing loss. Furthermore, the study revealed that the risk of hearing loss increases significantly starting at the age of 35.
The findings from the prevalence research were published in The Lancet Regional Health—Americas, emphasizing the significance of hearing loss as a national concern. According to David Rein, the senior fellow at NORC at the University of Chicago and principal investigator of the study, aging is the primary risk factor for hearing loss. However, the study also highlights the impact of geographical location on hearing health. Surprisingly, individuals residing in urban areas with high population and traffic noise had lower rates of hearing loss compared to those in rural areas.
The study further emphasizes the importance of prevention and treatment strategies for hearing loss. It is crucial to protect against noise exposure by using hearing protection. In cases where significant hearing loss occurs, hearing aids and other treatments can greatly improve an individual’s quality of life.
Donna Smiley, Chief Staff Officer for Audiology at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), emphasized the significance of hearing health and the need for regular screenings. Smiley stated that hearing is just as important as clear vision and encourages individuals to seek screening for hearing loss and take necessary measures to protect their hearing.
The researchers behind the Sound Check study also highlight the usefulness of their findings in targeting prevention, diagnosis, and treatment strategies for hearing loss. By estimating hearing loss rates at the state and county level, public health officials can focus on implementing targeted interventions.
Karl White, Director of the National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management at Utah State University, hopes that these findings will prioritize improved screening for adults, similar to what is already in place for newborns and young children. The study and its accompanying map serve as a call to action, highlighting the need for attention and prevention when it comes to hearing loss.
In conclusion, the Sound Check study provides valuable insights into the prevalence of hearing loss across the United States. By understanding the demographic and occupational factors associated with hearing loss, healthcare professionals and policymakers can develop effective strategies to address this significant public health issue.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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