Health Status of Adults with Hearing Loss in the United States

Audiol Res. 2021 Mar 10;11(1):100-111. doi: 10.3390/audiolres11010011.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to identify the current health status of adults in the United States with self-reported hearing loss and compare it with US adults with a self-reported excellent or good hearing in three areas: (1) chronic disease states and general health status, (2) medical screening behaviors, and (3) lifestyle behaviors.

Methods: A secondary data analysis was conducted using the 2014 data set from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), specifically the Sample Adult Public Use File (samadult). For this questionnaire set, one adult per family was randomly selected. This individual self-reported their response to the questionnaire items. Binary regressions were used to analyze the odds ratio to find differences for selected disease states, screenings, and lifestyle behaviors. Respondents were grouped into one of four categories: excellent/good hearing, a little trouble hearing, moderate/a lot of trouble hearing, and deaf.

Results: The excellent/good hearing group was used as the comparison group for the other three levels of hearing. There are many differences in likelihood to self-report disease states; the greatest increased likelihoods include tinnitus and heart disease, with tinnitus being 8.6 times more likely for those who identified as having moderate/a lot of hearing loss. Those with any level of hearing loss were 3 to 5 times more likely to self-report heart disease. Regarding lifestyle factors, individuals with any level of hearing loss were less likely to consume alcohol and 2.5 to 9 times more likely to be unable to engage in moderate or vigorous activity on a weekly basis, respectively.

Conclusions: There is a difference in the health status of individuals with hearing loss across all three areas examined (chronic disease states and general health status, medical screening behaviors, and lifestyle behaviors), and those differences vary based on level of hearing loss, the most notable being the self-reported inability to engage in moderate and vigorous physical activity. Disproportionate rates of tinnitus and heart disease were evident in all levels of hearing loss but most notable in those identifying as having moderate/a lot of trouble hearing. Further interdisciplinary research is necessary to improve the health of individuals with all levels of hearing loss, increase awareness of the hearing/health connection, and decrease hearing loss in general.

Keywords: disease state; health behaviors; health status; hearing loss.