Poor Hearing

People with poor hearing are at increased risk for accidents, a new study reports.

Using a nationwide health survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found that of 232.2 million adults, 15.7 percent reported hearing problems; 2.8 percent were injured in an accident within three months of the survey date.

The study, in JAMA Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery, tracked injuries related to driving, work, and leisure or sports.

For all three categories, the risk of injury increased steadily with hearing loss, although slightly less consistently with driving accidents. Over all, compared with those who rated their hearing “excellent,” those with a little trouble hearing were 60 percent more likely to have been injured, with moderate trouble 70 percent more likely, and with a lot of trouble 90 percent more likely.

The authors acknowledge that the study depended on self-reports of hearing difficulty rather than objective audiometry tests. The senior author, Dr. Neil Bhattacharyya, a professor of otolaryngology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, offered an example from his own experience. “I never wear headphones when I’m cycling,” he said. “Not hearing warning signs when jogging, cycling — that can put you in harm’s way. Hearing loss is not just a social nuisance. It can predispose you to injury.”

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