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Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2009 Apr;140(4):461-72. doi: 10.1016/j.otohns.2008.12.022.

The epidemiology of hearing impairment in the United States: newborns, children, and adolescents.

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Department of Otolaryngology, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.



Hearing loss ranks high among disabilities in the United States. The epidemiologic parameters of hearing impairment in the United States have not been systematically studied and important historic data have not diffused to relevant stakeholders; even otolaryngologists are unfamiliar with epidemiologic data. We wished to compile known studies to establish an epidemiologic baseline beginning with pediatric data.


Relevant literature was retrieved from medical databases and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.


Candidate articles and national data sets encompassing pediatric hearing loss were analyzed and compared. Whenever possible, group analyses were performed.


The average incidence of neonatal hearing loss in the United States is 1.1 per 1000 infants, with variation among states (0.22 to 3.61 per 1000). Childhood and adolescent prevalence rates demonstrate variability. The prevalence of mild hearing impairment or worse (>20 dB) is 3.1 percent based on the average of comparable audiometric screening studies; self-reporting prevalence is 1.9 percent. Hispanic Americans demonstrate a higher prevalence of hearing impairment than other children. Low-income households demonstrate a higher prevalence of hearing loss compared to households with higher income levels. Genetic causes were attributed to 23 percent across studies.


Analysis of the data reveals gaps in our knowledge of the epidemiology of hearing loss and stresses the importance of consistent definitions of hearing impairment for systematic assessment of changes over time. Hearing loss in childhood deserves further epidemiologic investigation and elevated awareness among health care professionals and the public. Genetic etiologies are likely underestimated in this review.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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