May 03, 2014

Hearing Loss Over Time

It is well-known that professional musicians have a higher risk of hearing loss and tinnitus compared to non-musicians. According to one study, the risk for musicians is 1.5x for hearing loss and nearly 4x for tinnitus.

And although people understand that as you get older, hearing loss increases, what is less clear is how quickly hearing loss occurs over time.

After analyzing over 3 million subjects, here is the graph of hearing loss with age. Intuitively, I thought there would have been a "jump" in hearing loss after a certain age. The graph indicates no such "jump," but rather a continuous increase of hearing loss from the earliest age studied (19-21 years).

This gentle slope does suggest that the vast majority of hearing loss is due to the slow accumulation of noise-induced nerve damage over time and that the vast minority of hearing loss is secondary to an acute event whether from infection or sudden loud noise exposure (i.e., gunshot without hearing plugs).


Incidence and relative risk of hearing disorders in professional musicians. Occup Environ Med doi:10.1136/oemed-2014-102172

Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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