20 million Americans have hearing damage caused by everyday activities
Up to now, it's been suspected that work-related noise has been the culprit behind most hearing loss, the researchers said.
But about 53 percent of adults with noise-induced hearing damage reported no exposure to loud sounds while on the job, according to the study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Instead, their hearing apparently has been damaged by exposure to loud noise at home (think headphones) or in their community (blame those leaf blowers).
Many of these people don't even know they've lost hearing. One in four adults who believes his or her hearing is good or excellent actually has hearing damage, the CDC found.
"About 20 million American adults have hearing damage indicative of noise exposure that probably comes from everyday activities in their home and community," Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting CDC director, said during a midday news briefing. "People may not realize these kind of exposures can cause permanent damage.
"The louder the noise and the longer you are exposed to it, the more likely it will damage your hearing," she added.
Hearing loss is the third most commonly reported chronic health condition in the United States, the agency said. Nearly twice as many people report hearing loss as report diabetes or cancer. And about 40 million Americans aged 20 to 69 have hearing loss in one or both ears that might be linked to noise exposure.
Loud noise causes hearing loss by permanently damaging the hair cells in the inner ear that vibrate when exposed to sound waves. The ability to hear sounds and noise is based on the signals these hair cells send to the brain, the CDC researchers said.
Hearing damage occurs when people are exposed to sounds above 85 decibels for an extended period. Many common noises are that loud, the CDC said.
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