Objectives: To estimate the age- and severity-specific prevalence of hearing impairment in the United States.
Methods: We conducted cross-sectional analyses of 2001 through 2010 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey on 9648 individuals aged 12 years or older. Hearing loss was defined as mild (> 25 dB through 40 dB), moderate (> 40 dB through 60 dB), severe (> 60 dB through 80 dB), or profound (> 80 dB).
Results: An estimated 25.4 million, 10.7 million, 1.8 million, and 0.4 million US residents aged 12 years or older, respectively, have mild, moderate, severe, and profound better-ear hearing loss. Older individuals displayed a higher prevalence of hearing loss and more severe levels of loss. Across most ages, the prevalence was higher among Hispanic and non-Hispanic Whites than among non-Hispanic Blacks and was higher among men than women.
Conclusions: Hearing loss directly affects 23% of Americans aged 12 years or older. The majority of these individuals have mild hearing loss; however, moderate loss is more prevalent than mild loss among individuals aged 80 years or older.
Public health implications: Our estimates can inform national public health initiatives on hearing loss and help guide policy recommendations currently being discussed at the Institute of Medicine and the White House.