Background: A pure-tone average of 0.5, 1, 2, and 4 kHz in the better ear (PTA-4) is the international standard criterion set by the World Health Organization (WHO) to describe hearing loss. Presently, there are no epidemiological data on hearing loss in Germany based on this criterion.
Methods: A representative sample of adults from Oldenburg and Emden were invited for a hearing assessment. This article analyzes the association between hearing loss and age, sex, noise, occupation, and educational level. Age- and sex-specific prevalence rates following the WHO classification are compared with international findings.
Results: According to the WHO classification, the prevalence of hearing impairment in the study cohort (n=1,866) is approx. 16%. In men, who more commonly work in noisy jobs, a higher prevalence rate is observed than in women of the same age. Nevertheless, sex differences in the present study are smaller than those reported in most international studies. PTA-4 is approximately the same for men and women when effects of occupational noise are controlled, but differences in prevalence between occupational areas are still significant.
Conclusion: Compared with international findings, age-specific prevalence rates in HÖRSTAT are low. In the synopsis of epidemiological studies of the past 25 years, a trend toward decreasing prevalence in middle and higher age groups can be observed.