About Two-Thirds of Older Adults May Have Hearing Loss, But Blacks Could Be at Lower Risk

Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times, March 1, 2011

If you’re older, chances are you’re at a higher risk for hearing loss–in a recent study about 63% of adults over 70 had it. But the same study found that being black may have a protective effect. While about 64% of whites in the study showed some hearing loss, only 43% of blacks did.

The study, published online recently in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, analyzed data from a two-year cycle of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, an ongoing national health research program. Among 717 participants who had hearing tests, about two-thirds had mild to severe hearing loss. Increasing age and being male were both linked with an increased risk for hearing loss.

But black study participants only had about a 43% prevalence of some hearing loss. According to the study, while some believe that melanin (a skin pigment) in the stria vascularis, an area in the ear that contains melanin, may be protective, some animal studies have not always shown that to be true.

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[“Hearing Loss Prevalence and Risk Factors Among Older Adults in the United States,” by Frank R. Lin, Roland Thorpe, Sandra Gordon-Salant, and Luigi Ferrucci can be read here. There is a charge.]

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