U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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Hearing Problems

Hearing problems can significantly and adversely affect a person’s quality of life, making it difficult to understand a doctor’s advice, hear alarms, and communicate with friends and family members. In 2007, 85.1 percent of adults reported excellent or good hearing without the use of an aid, while 14.7 percent reported at least some trouble hearing and 0.2 percent were deaf (data not shown). Women were less likely than men to have reported trouble hearing overall (11.9 versus 17.7 percent, respectively), and in every age group. For instance, among adults aged 75 years and older, 37.6 percent of women had trouble hearing compared to 53.1 percent of men.

The percentage of adults who reported trouble hearing increased with age for both men and women. Among women, 5.0 percent of 18- to 44-year-olds reported trouble hearing without the use of an aid, compared to 12.4 percent of those aged 45–64 years and 24.7 percent of those aged 65–74.

The use of hearing aids also increases with age. Among women, 13.8 percent of those aged 75 and older reported using a hearing aid, while only 3.8 percent of 65- to 74-year-olds and fewer than 1 percent of those aged 45–64 years did so.

Tinnitus is the term used for a persistent ringing, buzzing, or roaring sound in the ears or head. In 2007, 8.8 percent of women reported symptoms congruent with tinnitus. This varied, however, by race and ethnicity. Non-Hispanic White women were more likely than non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic women to have tinnitus (9.6 versus 7.6 and 6.6 percent, respectively). Non-Hispanic Asian women were least likely to have reported experiencing tinnitus (4.1 percent; data not shown).

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