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Background
Keywords
Findings
Authors
What is already known on this subject?
What does this study add?

Text begins

Background

In Canada, population-level estimates of hearing loss have been based on self-reported data, yielding estimates of 4% or 5%. Self-reported hearing difficulties may result in underestimates of hearing loss, particularly among people with mild loss and among older adults.

Data and methods

The 2012/2013 Canadian Health Measures Survey (cycle 3) collected audiometric and self-reported data to estimate the prevalence of hearing loss and limitations in a population-based sample of Canadians aged 20 to 79. Weighted frequencies and cross-tabulations were used to calculate measured and self-reported hearing levels by sociodemographic characteristics. All estimates were weighted at the person-level to represent the population.

Results

Based on a pure-tone average of four frequencies that are important in speech, 19.2% of Canadians aged 20 to 79 had measured hearing loss in at least one ear; 35.4% had high-frequency hearing loss. These levels exceeded the self-reported estimate of hearing difficulty—3.7%—derived from responses to questions from the Health Utilities Index Mark 3. The prevalence of measured hearing loss rose with age from no more than 10% among people younger than 50 to 65% at ages 70 to 79. Men were more likely than women to have a hearing loss, a difference that emerged around age 60. Canadians with low household income and/or educational attainment were more likely than those in higher income/education households to have a hearing loss.

Interpretation

This analysis presents the first population-based audiometric data on the prevalence of hearing loss among the adult household population of Canada, and highlights the disparity between measured and self-reported outcomes.

Keywords

Audiometry, deafness, earwax, hearing aids, hearing-impaired persons, hearing loss

Findings

Hearing loss is an important public health concern with far-reaching implications. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the World Health Organization reported adult-onset hearing loss to be one of the leading causes of years lost due to disability (YLD); in 2001, hearing loss accounted for 4.7% of total YLD due to all causes, with the total global YLD for hearing loss estimated at 24.9 million years. As well, hearing loss has been associated with worse quality of life and functional outcomes. The personal consequences may include social isolation, depression, safety issues, mobility limitations, and reduced income and employment opportunities. Yet despite the importance of hearing for daily functioning, hearing loss is often unrecognized and undertreated. [Full Text]

Authors

Katya Feder (Katya.Feder@hc-sc.gc.ca), David Michaud (David.Michaud@hc-sc.gc.ca) and James McNamee (James.McNamee@hc-sc.gc.ca) are with the Health Effects and Assessment Division at Health Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. Pamela Ramage-Morin (Pamela.Ramage-Morin@statcan.gc.ca) is with the Health Analysis Division at Statistics Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. Yves Beauregard is with the Audiology Department at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Ottawa, Ontario.

What is already known on this subject?

  • In Canada, national estimates of the prevalence of hearing loss have typically been based on self-reported data.
  • Self-reports may underestimate the prevalence of hearing impairment, especially among older adults and among people with mild or high-frequency hearing loss.
  • Audiometric evaluation of hearing  is important in understanding the extent of the problem at the population level.

What does this study adds?

  • The 2012/2013 Canadian Health Measures Survey collected audiometric data on a sample of respondents representative of the adult population in the 10 provinces.
  • Fewer than 4% of adults aged 20 to 79 reported difficulties hearing, but 19% (4.6 million) had a measured hearing loss that affected their ability to comprehend speech; at ages 70 to 79, the figure was 65%.
  • Canadian population-based estimates of the prevalence of hearing loss are similar to those reported in the United States, Great Britain and Australia.
  • Overall, 12% of adults with a measured hearing loss used a hearing aid; at ages 70 to 79, the figure was 24%.
  • An estimated 13% of Canadian adults had occluding earwax, and among older people, the percentage was 21%.
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