Josef Shargorodsky, MD, MPH; Sharon G. Curhan, MD, ScM; Gary C. Curhan, MD, ScD; Roland Eavey, MD, SM[+] Author Affiliations
Author Affiliations: Channing Laboratory (Drs Shargorodsky, S. G. Curhan, and G. C. Curhan) and Renal Division (Dr G. C. Curhan), Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts; Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston (Dr Shargorodsky); Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center for Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee (Dr Eavey); and Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston (Dr G. C. Curhan).
Context Hearing loss is common and, in young persons, can compromise social development, communication skills, and educational achievement.
Objective To examine the current prevalence of hearing loss in US adolescents and determine whether it has changed over time.
Design Cross-sectional analyses of US representative demographic and audiometric data from the 1988 through 1994 and 2005 through 2006 time periods.
Setting The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), 1988-1994, and NHANES 2005-2006.
Participants NHANES III examined 2928 participants and NHANES 2005-2006 examined 1771 participants, aged 12 to 19 years.
Main Outcome Measures We calculated the prevalence of hearing loss in participants aged 12 to 19 years after accounting for the complex survey design. Audiometrically determined hearing loss was categorized as either unilateral or bilateral for low frequency (0.5, 1, and 2 kHz) or high frequency (3, 4, 6, and 8 kHz), and as slight loss (>15 to <25 dB) or mild or greater loss (≥25 dB) according to hearing sensitivity in the worse ear. The prevalence of hearing loss from NHANES 2005-2006 was compared with the prevalence from NHANES III (1988-1994). We also examined the cross-sectional relations between several potential risk factors and hearing loss. Logistic regression was used to calculate multivariate adjusted odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs).
Results The prevalence of any hearing loss increased significantly from 14.9% (95% CI, 13.0%-16.9%) in 1988-1994 to 19.5% (95% CI, 15.2%-23.8%) in 2005-2006 (P = .02). In 2005-2006, hearing loss was more commonly unilateral (prevalence, 14.0%; 95% CI, 10.4%-17.6%, vs 11.1%; 95% CI, 9.5%-12.8% in 1988-1994; P = .005) and involved the high frequencies (prevalence, 16.4%; 95% CI, 13.2%-19.7%, vs 12.8%; 95% CI, 11.1%-14.5% in 1988-1994; P = .02). Individuals from families below the federal poverty threshold (prevalence, 23.6%; 95% CI, 18.5%-28.7%) had significantly higher odds of hearing loss (multivariate adjusted OR, 1.60; 95% CI, 1.10-2.32) than those above the threshold (prevalence, 18.4%; 95% CI, 13.6%-23.2%).
Conclusion The prevalence of hearing loss among a sample of US adolescents aged 12 to 19 years was greater in 2005-2006 compared with 1988-1994.