06/20/2006 - News

Non-hispanic blacks have the best hearing in the US

By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD


Non-hispanic blacks have the best hearing in the US

Reported by Susan Aldridge, PhD, medical journalist

A survey shows ethnic differences in hearing, but not much national change over 35 years.
Hearing loss is caused by a variety of factors – age, trauma, medication, for example. However, overexposure to noise accounts for around a third of all cases of deafness. Sources of such exposure in society have changed drastically over the years. Has hearing loss become more or less widespread as a result?

Researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health now report on hearing test results for more than 5,000 adults and compare these with results from 35 years ago. The findings suggest that overall, the nation’s hearing has not changed much over the years. Non-Hispanic blacks have the best hearing and non-Hispanic whites the worst. Mexican Americans come somewhere in between and women’s hearing is, generally, better than men’s.

The researchers say that hearing protection is now standard in noisy jobs which reduces one source of damage. However, society is now noisier in many ways than it was 35 years ago. The level of hearing loss has stayed the same, but the causes may have changed. It is perhaps too soon to assess the effect of the ubiquitous iPod on hearing – this data was gathered between 1999 and 2004 and noise exposure can take many years to show its effects on hearing.

Acoustical Society of America meeting 13th June 2006

Created on: 06/20/2006
Reviewed on: 06/20/2006

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