Hearing sensitivity of older individuals in nonindustrialized societies is significantly better than that of older individuals in industrialized societies. This finding strongly suggests that there are preventable risk factors in industrialized societies for apparent age-related hearing loss. Exposure to intense noise and administration of ototoxic drugs are two well-known risk factors for acquired sensorineural hearing loss. The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging has shown that elevated systolic blood pressure is associated with significant risk for hearing loss in men (Brant et al.). In the Beaver Dam epidemiological study, smoking was identified as a significant risk factor for sensorineural hearing loss among the 3,753 participants (Cruikshanks et al., 1998). Nonsmoking participants who lived with a smoker were also more likely to have a hearing loss than those not exposed to smoke in the home. The identification of these modifiable risk factors suggests that an effective program of prevention or delay of adult-onset hearing loss would include use of ear protection in noisy environments, control of hypertension, elimination of cigarette smoking, and monitoring the use of potentially ototoxic medications.
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