Considerable Gap Exists in U.S. between Having Hearing Loss and Receiving Medical Evaluation, Treatment

JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery


Media advisory: To contact author Neil Bhattacharyya, M.D., F.A.C.S., email The full study is available on the For The Media website.

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Bottom Line: Nearly a third of about 40 million adults in the United States who report hearing difficulties have not seen a specialist for their hearing problems.

Why The Research Is Interesting: Hearing loss is extremely common and is associated with negative physical, social, cognitive, economic, and emotional consequences.

Who and When: A representative sample of U.S. adults who participated in a 2014 national survey and responded to questions on hearing.

What (Study Measures): Proportion of adults with self-reported hearing difficulty; proportion referred for medical evaluation.

How (Study Design): This is an observational study. Because researchers are not intervening for purposes of the study they cannot control natural differences that could explain study findings.

Authors: Hossein Mahboubi, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of California Irvine, and coauthors


  • 16.8 percent of adults reported their hearing was less than “excellent/good,” ranging from “a little trouble hearing” to “deaf.”
  • Nearly a third of adults with less than “excellent/good” hearing had never seen a clinician for hearing problems and 28 percent had never had their hearing tested.
  • 7.3 million people (3.1 percent of the U.S. population) were estimated to use hearing aids.
  • Men were more likely than women to report hearing trouble.

Study Limitations: The data were reported by survey participants and no objective data, such as hearing test results, were available.

Study Conclusions: Many people with self-reported hearing loss are not evaluated or treated for their hearing. Improved awareness about referrals to otolaryngologists and audiologists, along with treatment options, may improve care for those with hearing loss.

Featured Image:


What The Image Shows: Age distribution of people with hearing loss in the U.S. in 2014. (Click on the image for a full-size version. Right click to “save image as” to download.)

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