Hearing Impairment Prevalence and Associated Risk Factors in the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos

JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015 Jul;141(7):641-8. doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2015.0889.


Importance: Hearing impairment is common in adults, but few studies have addressed it in the US Hispanic/Latino population.

Objective: To determine the prevalence of hearing impairment among US Hispanic/Latino adults of diverse backgrounds and determine associations with potential risk factors.

Design, setting, and participants: The Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL) is a population-based sample of Hispanics/Latinos in four US communities (Bronx, New York; Chicago, Illinois; Miami, Florida; and San Diego, California). Examinations were conducted from 2008 through 2011. The HCHS/SOL examined 16,415 self-identified Hispanic/Latino persons aged 18 to 74 years recruited from randomly selected households using a stratified 2-stage area probability sample design based on census block groups and households within block groups.

Main outcomes and measures: Hearing thresholds were measured by pure-tone audiometry. Hearing impairment was defined as a pure-tone average (PTA) of thresholds at 0.5, 1, 2, and 4 kHz greater than 25 dB hearing level. Bilateral hearing impairment required a PTA greater than 25 dB hearing level in both ears. Multivariable analyses included adjustments for sociodemographic and lifestyle variables, body mass index, and medical conditions.

Results: The prevalence of hearing impairment was 15.06% (SE, 0.44%) overall, and 8.24% (SE, 0.33%) had bilateral hearing impairment. The prevalence of hearing impairment was higher among people 45 years and older, ranging by Hispanic/Latino background from 29.35% to 41.20% among men and 17.89% to 32.11% among women. The multivariable-adjusted odds of hearing impairment was greater for participants of Puerto Rican background compared with Mexican background (odds ratio [OR], 1.57 [95% CI, 1.10-2.25]). The odds of hearing impairment were lower with more education (OR, 0.71 [95% CI, 0.59-0.86] for at least high school) and higher income (OR, 0.58 [95% CI, 0.36-0.92] for >$75,000 vs ≤$10,000). Noise exposure (OR, 1.35 [95% CI, 1.07-1.70]), diabetes (OR, 1.57 [95% CI, 1.27-1.94]), and prediabetes (OR, 1.37 [95% CI, 1.12-1.67]) were associated with hearing impairment.

Conclusions and relevance: Hearing impairment is a common problem for older Hispanics/Latinos in these communities and is associated with socioeconomic factors, noise exposure, and abnormal glucose metabolism. Longitudinal studies are needed to determine whether these factors are involved in the etiology of hearing impairment and to identify ways to prevent or delay age-related changes in hearing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Audiometry, Pure-Tone
  • Central America / ethnology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Hearing Loss / epidemiology
  • Hearing Loss / ethnology*
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mexico / ethnology
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • South America / ethnology
  • Urban Health / ethnology*
  • West Indies / ethnology
  • Young Adult