PhotoIf you’re at all frustrated with an older family member who’s hard of hearing, you might want to consider lightening up a bit.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University have conducted a study and found that the prevalence of hearing loss in older Americans is likely to rise dramatically in the next 40 years or so. Unfortunately, this is an issue that may also be indicative of greater health problems to come in the years ahead.

“Hearing loss is a major public health issue independently associated with higher health care costs, accelerated cognitive decline, and poorer physical functioning. More than two-thirds of adults 70 years or older in the United States have clinically meaningful hearing loss,” the researchers said.

“With an aging society, the number of persons with hearing loss will grow, increasing the demand for audiologic health care services.”

Hearing loss rates to double

The researchers came to their conclusions after analyzing audiometric data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. By cross-referencing this information with estimates from the 10-year population estimates from 2020 to 2060, the researchers found that the number of people that will suffer from hearing loss will increase from 44.1 million to 73.5 million during the time period.

Additionally, the study found that older adults will be most affected by the condition. The researchers estimate that 55.4% of all adults with hearing loss will be over the age of 70 in 2020. By 2060, that figure is expected to drop slightly to 67.4%. However, hearing loss is expected to increase by 7.6% in adults 20 and over during the same period.

The researchers point out that over the next 43 years, the number of U.S. consumers affected by hearing loss is projected to double, outpacing the overall population growth rate. They say that it is up to policy makers and elected officials to plan for this eventuality to reduce negative effects going forward.

“These projections can inform policy makers and public health researchers in planning appropriately for the future audiologic hearing health care needs of society,” they said.

The full study has been published in JAMA Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery.


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