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Hearing loss is expected to double among US adults

Audiologist
Carmen MartA-nez BanAs | E+ | Getty Images

The number of American adults living with some form of hearing loss is expected to nearly double by 2060, according to a new report from Johns Hopkins researchers.

Already, about two-thirds of Americans 70 years or older suffer from hearing loss, and increasingly aging sections of the population will accelerate the need for services and treatments to help lessen the impact of hearing loss on daily life.

The study was published Thursday in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

Lead author Adele Gorman and colleagues at Johns Hopkins took hearing test information from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a large and long-running set of surveys done by the National Center for Health Statistics to assess the health of Americans.

They then developed forecasts of the number of people expected to suffer hearing loss in the coming decades, based on estimates of population growth and shifts in the average age in the U.S.

They found that the number of adults 20 years or older with some kind of measurable hearing loss will climb from 44 million people in 2020 (about 15 percent of all adults) to more than 73 million people in 2060. Their total share of the U.S. population, which is expected to grow overall, will slightly increase to about 22 percent.

"The increased need for affordable interventions and accessibility to trained hearing specialists will require novel and cost-effective approaches to audiologic health care," the team wrote in their study.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and by the Eleanor Schwartz Charitable Foundation.

Previous research has also forecast higher rates of hearing loss, due to in part to the increasing use of loud sounds from music players and smartphones played through headphones and earbuds.

Still other researchers have warned of dangers posed by the onslaught of loud noises that often accompany life in busy cities or around loud machinery, such as trains, construction equipment and car horns.

A recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that hearing loss is the fifth leading cause of disability around the world.