This chapter presents results of questions to adults about their hearing difficulties, and results of a hearing test during the interview to identify objective hearing loss at mid frequency (1 kHz) and high frequency (3 kHz).
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 a 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.
Self-reported hearing difficulties
- 18% of adults reported hearing difficulties. This included 5% reporting current hearing aid use. Prevalence of self-reported hearing difficulties increased with age, reaching 71% of men and 59% of women aged 85 and over.
- 4% of men and 3% of women reported moderate or worse difficulty when conversing with a single person in a quiet room, 9% and 7% respectively reported moderate or great difficulty with conversing in a group, and 7% and 6% respectively reported moderate or great difficulty with following television programmes at a normal volume.
- 53% of men and women aged 55 and over with reported great difficulty in hearing were moderately or severely annoyed with their hearing difficulty.
- 13% of men and 9% of women reported having had a hearing test in the last 12 months.
- Both current and ever-use of a hearing aid increased with the self-reported degree of hearing difficulties. For example, 46% of men and 45% of women reporting great difficulty with their hearing currently used hearing aids.
Objective hearing loss
- 14% of adults had objective hearing loss at the mid-frequency sound (1 kHz): 10% of adults were unable to hear a 1 kHz sound at a level of 20 dB HL, and 4% had at least a moderate problem (unable to hear a 1 kHz sound at a level of 35 dB HL).
- 13% had objective hearing loss at the 3 kHz high-frequency sound (moderate or worse loss).
- Objective hearing loss increased sharply with age. The burden of objective hearing loss at 3 kHz was higher for men than for women at ages 65-84, but was similar between the sexes at other ages.
- 31% of adults aged 65 and over had good hearing or only minimal objective hearing loss in both ears at both 1 kHz and 3 kHz. The remainder had some hearing loss for at least one frequency in at least one ear.
- Among both sexes aged 55 and over, the prevalence of objective hearing loss at 1 kHz and at 3 kHz increased sharply with the self-reported degree of hearing difficulties.
- The proportion of participants aged 55 and over who reported having had a hearing test in the last 12 months increased with the degree of objective hearing loss. However, only 26% with moderate or worse loss (at least 35 dB HL) at 3 kHz reported having had a hearing test in the last 12 months.
- Similarly, prevalence of both current and ever-use of a hearing aid increased as objective hearing loss increased. Of those aged 55 and over with at least moderate loss (35 dB HL or worse) at 3 kHz, only 31% were currently using a hearing aid.