Teen Hearing Loss Not As Bad As Thought

MINNEAPOLIS, Sept. 22 (UPI) — U.S. teen hearing loss is much lower than previously reported, researchers at the University of Minnesota suggest.

Bert Schlauch and Edward Carney say fewer than 20 percent of U.S. teens have a hearing loss as a result of exposure to loud sounds, challenging an analysis reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association in August.

The researchers measured the hearing of members of the university’s marching band and found about 15 percent suffered from hearing loss, and then tracked band members for one year. After the results of multiple hearing tests were averaged, more than half of the apparent noise induced hearing losses disappeared, a finding consistent with measurement error, the researchers say.

The JAMA study examined two sets of data collected as part of a national study of health and nutrition. Schlauch and Carney examined the older data set that included in the JAMA study.

Another study, published in the journal Pediatrics, examined the older data set and reported an estimated prevalence of 14.9 percent of teens ages 12-19 who had hearing loss consistent with noise exposure.

The study, scheduled to be published in the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, was based on computer simulations modeling the statistical properties of hearing tests. The researchers say as much as 10 percent of the 14.9 percent figure is consistent with false positive responses.

In other words, people with normal hearing can produce spurious responses during a hearing test that look like a mild hearing loss — a result consistent with measurement error, the study says.

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