The UK charity Action on Hearing Loss estimates there are currently more than 12 million people in the UK with some type of hearing loss, or one in six of the population. The vast majority of these have developed hearing loss over time. By 2035, they estimate there’ll be around 15.6 million people with hearing loss across the UK – that’s one in five (AOHL, 2020).
71% of those over 70 years of age have some degree of hearing loss, and 40% of those over 50. Around 2 million people in the UK have hearing aids, but only 1.4 million use them regularly. It is estimated that at least 4 million more people would benefit from hearing aids. 80% of people aged 55-74 who would benefit from a hearing aid do not use one.
Estimations by the World Health Organisation indicate that over 900 million people worldwide will have disabling hearing loss by 2050. Hearing loss in presbycusis (age-related hearing loss) usually begins in the high-frequency regions, compromising the understanding of conversations in noisy environments and tends to spread toward the low-frequency region during aging.
Research has shown that there is large variation of the onset and extent of age-related hearing loss among the human population. Epidemiological studies have demonstrated four categories of risk factors of age-related hearing loss in humans:
1. cochlear aging (aging of the hearing organ)
2. environment such as occupational and leisure noise exposure and ototoxic medications
3. genetic predisposition
4. health related factors such as cigarette smoking, stroke and hypertension
Strong and consistent associations of hearing loss have generally been found with risk factors of increasing age (increased risk) and male sex (increased risk). One study evaluated the association between smoking and hearing loss in 3753 adults aged 48–92 years, and found that after adjusting for other factors, current smokers were 1.69 times as likely to have a hearing loss than non-smokers.
The findings of a recent study suggested that adhering to a healthy diet may reduce the risk of acquired hearing loss, especially among older women (Curhan et al., 2018).
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Curhan, S., Wang, M., Eavey, R., Stampfer, M. and Curhan, G., 2018. Adherence to Healthful Dietary Patterns Is Associated with Lower Risk of Hearing Loss in Women. The Journal of Nutrition, 148(6), pp.944-951.