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5.7 million adults in England suffer with hearing loss

16 December 2015 | Tags: Health Survey for England

At least 5.7 million adults in England, 13% of the adult population, suffer with hearing loss, the latest Health Survey for England reveals today.

New findings from the annual survey of the nation’s health show that older men are most likely to have significant hearing loss; defined as being likely to interfere with hearing speech and affecting both ears.

  • Hearing loss increases markedly with age. It affects 14% of people aged 55-64; 29% aged 65-74; 55% aged 75-84; and 83% aged 85 and over. In contrast, 98% of young adults aged 16-24 had good hearing.
  • Hearing loss is more common among older men than women. Half of men over 65 (50%) had hearing loss compared with 38% of women. 

The hearing of more than 5,300 people was tested as part of the study by researchers from NatCen Social Research and UCL for the Health & Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

This is the first time that hearing loss in a national sample of the general population in England has been measured alongside survey questions on hearing difficulties.

Perception vs reality

In addition to testing the hearing of people in the survey researchers also asked participants about their hearing difficulties, revealing some discrepancies between people’s perception of their hearing and the results of the hearing tests.

  • A significant proportion of people were not aware that they had hearing loss. Nearly one quarter (23%) of men and one in six women (17%) aged 55 or over who reported no difficulty hearing were found to have some hearing loss.
  • Less than a third (31%) of those aged 55 or over with hearing loss currently use a hearing aid.
  • Only a quarter of adults with moderate or worse hearing loss had had a hearing test in the last year.

Dr Jennifer Mindell, Reader in Public Health in UCL’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, and co-author of this chapter of the report said:

“Hearing difficulties make conversations difficult, restrict people’s enjoyment of their social and personal life, and can make people feel cut off from things so these high levels of hearing loss are a cause for concern. We should be particularly worried about the large numbers of people who have hearing loss, but who aren’t aware of it or don’t wear a hearing aid.”

-Ends-

For more information contact:

Leigh Marshall, 0207 549 8506/07828 031 850 leigh.marshall@natcen.ac.uk or Sophie Brown, 0207 549 9550/07734 960 069 sophie.brown@natcen.ac.uk  

Notes to Editors

Hearing Loss is described using decibel Hearing Level (dB HL). This equates to the number of decibels by which a sound must be amplified for that person to be able to hear it reliably at least half the time. Hearing is considered ‘normal’ at a level of 25 dB HL or lower. Speech recognition requires good high frequency hearing.

All figures on objective hearing loss relate to hearing loss at 3 kHz. Overall, 13% of adults aged 16 and over in HSE 2014 had at least moderate hearing loss (35 dB HL or more) at 3 kHz (high frequency) in the better ear. This level of hearing loss in the better hearing ear is an accepted threshold for problems that would benefit from hearing aids and/or other support.

Summary and full copies of the Health Survey for England 2014 report are available at: http://healthsurvey.hscic.gov.uk/support-guidance/public-health/health-survey-for-england-2014.aspx

About Health Survey for England (HSE)

The Health Survey for England is an annual survey, monitoring the health of the population. The Joint Health Surveys Unit of NatCen Social Research and the Research Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at UCL are commissioned by the Health and Social Care Information Centre to carry out the survey. Each survey consists of core questions and measurements, plus modules of questions on specific issues that change periodically.

About NatCen

NatCen Social Research is an independent, not for profit organisation. We believe that social research has the power to make life better. By really understanding the complexity of people’s lives and what they think about the issues that affect them, we give the public a powerful and influential role in shaping decisions and services that can make a difference to everyone.

About UCL

Founded in 1826, UCL (University College London) was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. We are among the world's top universities, as reflected by performance in a range of international rankings and tables. UCL currently has almost 29,000 students from 150 countries and in the region of 10,000 employees. Our annual income is more than £900 million.