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Int J Audiol. 2011 Mar;50 Suppl 1:S21-31. doi: 10.3109/14992027.2010.540722.

Evidence of hearing loss in a 'normally-hearing' college-student population.

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  • 1Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610, USA.


We report pure-tone hearing threshold findings in 56 college students. All subjects reported normal hearing during telephone interviews, yet not all subjects had normal sensitivity as defined by well-accepted criteria. At one or more test frequencies (0.25-8 kHz), 7% of ears had thresholds ≥25 dB HL and 12% had thresholds ≥20 dB HL. The proportion of ears with abnormal findings decreased when three-frequency pure-tone-averages were used. Low-frequency PTA hearing loss was detected in 2.7% of ears and high-frequency PTA hearing loss was detected in 7.1% of ears; however, there was little evidence for 'notched' audiograms. There was a statistically reliable relationship in which personal music player use was correlated with decreased hearing status in male subjects. Routine screening and education regarding hearing loss risk factors are critical as college students do not always self-identify early changes in hearing. Large-scale systematic investigations of college students' hearing status appear to be warranted; the current sample size was not adequate to precisely measure potential contributions of different sound sources to the elevated thresholds measured in some subjects.

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