Abstract

Background

People with audiometrically measured hearing loss do not always self-report a hearing impairment.

Data and methods

Data were collected from 2012 through 2015 as part of the Canadian Health Measures Survey. The study sample was composed of respondents aged 40 to 79 with valid audiometric results for both ears (n = 3,964). Unperceived hearing loss was defined by four criteria: audiometrically measured hearing loss, no self-reported hearing impairment, no hearing aid(s) and no history of a hearing problem diagnosis.

Results

Of the 8.2 million older adults with measured high-frequency hearing loss, an estimated 77% (6.3 million) had hearing loss that was unperceived. Individuals who had never worked in a noisy environment were more likely to have unperceived hearing loss. People who had experienced tinnitus were less likely than others to have unperceived hearing loss.

Interpretation

Unperceived hearing loss occurs more often among those with mild or unilateral hearing loss and those who may not expect to experience hearing loss. Regular screening has been proposed to help raise awareness about hearing loss and to promote earlier detection and intervention that may ultimately improve the quality of life of those experiencing diminished hearing acuity.

Keywords

Audiometry, deafness, hearing impairment

DOI: https://www.doi.org/10.25318/82-003-x201900800002-eng

Findings

Hearing loss consistently ranks among the top five causes of years lived with a disability In Canada, an estimated 19% of adults (4.6 million) have at least mild hearing loss in the speech-frequency range (0.5, 1, 2 and 4 kHz). An even larger percentage of the adult population—35% (8.4 million)—have some degree of hearing loss in the high-frequency range (3, 4, 6 and 8 kHz), which is where age-related hearing loss typically begins. In addition to the aging process, hearing loss may also result from hereditary factors, some chronic conditions, noise exposure, ototoxic substances and medications, or other factors . The diminished ability to process acoustic information can impede communication. For example, it can be difficult to hear or understand speech, converse in noisy environments and identify where sound is coming from. [Full article]

Authors

Pamela Ramage-Morin (Pamela.Ramage-Morin@canada.ca) is with the Health Analysis Division at Statistics Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. Rex Banks (rbanks@chs.ca), Dany Pineault and Maha Atrach are audiologists with the Canadian Hearing Society, Toronto, Ontario.

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What is already known on this subject?

  • Hearing loss is one of the leading causes of years lived with a disability worldwide and can lead to social and health consequences, including embarrassment, fatigue, anxiety, depression, distress, social isolation, participation restrictions, falls and other injuries, lower quality of life, and mortality.
  • There is a gap between subjectively reported hearing impairment and objectively measured hearing loss.
  • In 2012 and 2013, an estimated 35% of Canadian adults had hearing loss in the high-frequency range, but only 4% reported that they had difficulty hearing.

What does this study add?

  • Among Canadians aged 40 to 79 with hearing loss in the high-frequency range, 77% had unperceived hearing loss.
  • Unperceived hearing loss was more common among adults with mild or unilateral measured loss.
  • Individuals who had experienced tinnitus were less likely to have unperceived hearing loss, while the opposite was true for individuals who had never worked in a noisy environment, even after taking age, sex and hearing loss severity into account.

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