1 in 4 American Adults Has Permanent Hearing Loss and Doesn't Even Realize It, CDC Reports

Simple things like leaf blowers, sirens, and rock concerts are to blame.

Listen up, Americans: According to this week's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality report, nearly one in every four of us lives with some degree of hearing loss. That's a problem.

For the February 2017 report, the CDC analyzed hearing test data from more than 3,500 people in the 2011-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The analysis revealed that 24 percent of people ages 20 to 69 had audiometric notches, aka increases in how loud a sound had to be for them to hear it. And yet, about a fourth of those people believed they had good or even excellent hearing.

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This data is pretty shocking, but perhaps the most surprising finding was the source of the noise that's causing our hearing loss: Previously, researchers thought exposure to loud noises in the workplace were most to blame for changes in hearing, but according to this report, the sounds people are exposed to outside of work (think: lawn mowers, sirens, and rock concerts) might have an even larger effect.

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Because we're surrounded by these noises all the time, hearing loss is incredibly common. In fact, it's the third most common chronic condition in the United States — and twice as common as diabetes or cancer, according to the CDC. The report also found that one in five people in their 20s had audiometric notches, which is especially alarming because hearing loss only worsens with age.

"Noise is damaging hearing before anyone notices or diagnoses it," CDC acting director Anne Schuchat, MD, told the Washington Post. "Because of that, the start of hearing loss is under-recognized."

Wondering what you can do to protect your ears from hearing loss? Schuchat recommends using earplugs or headphones when you're at loud events or in noisy places for extended periods of time. And if you're not sure whether your environment could be damaging your hearing, you can always try using the CDC's new decibel-measuring app: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Sound Level Meter App can be used to gauge the loudness of your surroundings and help you make educated decisions about how to best protect your hearing.

[h/t Washington Post]

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