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Noise-Induced Hearing Loss - Attitudes and Behaviors of U.S. Adults

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health included a number of questions concerning noise induced hearing loss on the 1998 Healthstyles survey. Healthstyles is a comprehensive annual survey conducted by Porter/Novelli, Inc. of the health-related beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of American adults. In 1998, the Healthstyles survey was sent to a representative sample of 3,638 people. Of these, 2,681 people responded, yielding a response rate of 74 percent. To compensate for differential non-response rates in various demographic categories, the data were weighted to mirror the demographic characteristics of the adult United States population.

The preliminary data revealed that adults in the United States know that hearing loss is a problem and they appear to understand the implications of hearing loss.

  • 48% of U.S. adults believe that they have suffered some hearing loss, including 35% of those 18 to 29 years old.
  • 48% of adults know that hearing loss is not part of growing old, and
  • 79% believe that hearing loss can interfere with a person’s social life and personal relationships.

However, many Americans are not knowledgeable about sources of hazardous noise at home.

  • 32% of adults say that while they regularly use noisy equipment around the house (e.g., lawn mower or vacuum cleaner), they do not believe that their use of this equipment could damage their hearing.

Americans are also not regularly screened for hearing loss. In fact, a large percentage do not believe they have ready access to a hearing test.

  • Only 39% of adults have had a hearing test in the last three years.
  • 21% of those over 65 years old say that they have never had a hearing test.
  • Only 56% of adults in the United States believe that hearing tests are readily available to them.

The lack of ready access to hearing tests is true even for those adults that are at particularly high risk for noise-induced hearing loss.

  • Only 51% of those who work in so-called "blue collar" occupations believe that hearing tests are readily accessible to them. These are people who work in an environment with a great deal of noise (e.g., precision production, farmers, and machine operators).


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