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Ear Hear. 2003 Jun;24(3):198-205.

Hearing loss in children and adults: audiometric configuration, asymmetry, and progression.

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Boys Town National Research Hospital, 555 N. 30th Street, Omaha, NE 68131, USA.



The purpose of this study was to characterize the sensorineural hearing losses of a group of children and adults along three parameters important to the hearing instrument fitting process: 1) audiometric configuration, 2) asymmetry of loss between ears, and 3) progression of loss over several years.


Audiograms for 248 60- and 61-yr-old adults and 227 6-yr-old children were obtained from the audiological database at Boys Town National Research Hospital. Based on right-ear air-conduction thresholds, the configurations were assigned to one of six categories: sloping, rising, flat, u-shaped, tent-shaped, and other. Left- and right-ear thresholds were compared to determine asymmetry of loss. Progression of loss was evaluated for 132 children for whom additional audiograms over an 8-yr period were available.


In general, the children's hearing losses were more evenly distributed across configuration categories while most of the adult's audiograms were sloping or u-shaped in configuration. The variability of loss at each frequency was greater for the children than the adults for all configuration categories. Asymmetrical losses were more common and the degree of asymmetry at each frequency was more extensive among the children than the adults. A small number of children showed either improved or deteriorated hearing levels over time. In those children for whom progressive hearing loss occurred, no frequency was more vulnerable than another.


The results of the present study suggest that substantial differences in audiological characteristics exist between children and adults. Implications for amplification include the development of appropriate fitting protocols for unusual audiometric configurations as well as protocols for binaural amplification in cases of asymmetric hearing losses.

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