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How does hearing impact the chances of injuries from accidents?

A recent study investigates the degrees of sensory impairment in hearing and its association with injuries from accidents in the US.

Traffic accidents and road safety are paramount concerns. Accidental injuries are a leading cause of mortality and disability in the United States. Accidents and injuries occurring from accidents have resulted in treatment costs and loss of wages amounting to $235.5 billion. The costs incurred per injured person comes to over $14,000. Increased risk for these injuries may be associated with issues in hearing. While a number of factors that contribute to accidents have been investigated, an in-depth study of sensory impairments such as hearing loss and an increased risk of accidents would allow for better screening methods for preventing such injuries.

The current study focuses on the risk of injury through accidents among US adults and evaluates a possible link to hearing difficulties. The study was designed to include a large sample of 23.2 million individuals who are of 18 years and older. These participants completed the National Health Interview Survey from 2007 to 2015 and answered questions on hearing and injury. Since most previous research has been studies limited in sample size or single categories of accidental injury a study of this proportions using nationally representative data is unique.

The present study was published in the JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery on March 22, 2018. The hearing status in the course of the interview was categorized as “excellent”, “good”, “a little trouble hearing”, “moderate trouble hearing”, “a lot of trouble hearing” and “deaf”. The main variable under investigation was the occurrence of an accidental injury in the three months prior to investigation. Injuries were classified as “work-related”, “driving-related”, or “sport/leisure-related”.

Hearing Loss Was Associated With Injury in Unexpected Ways

The results showed that 15.7% of the adults reported difficulty in hearing, and accidental injuries occurred in 2.8% of the population irrespective of their hearing status. The chances of an accidental injury increased from 2.4% in those people with excellent hearing to 4.8% in those with a lot of difficulty hearing. People who considered themselves to be deaf had a lower rate of accidental injury than people with excellent hearing.

Additionally, in work-related injuries persons with good hearing or with a little trouble had higher rates of accidents than those with either excellent hearing or deafness. A possible reason why this is seen is that those who are deaf may not be as involved in the home or work-related activities that can potentially lead to such injuries. In the category of leisure activities, a contrasting finding was seen from the above. Injuries were higher in deaf or hearing impaired individuals during sports or leisure activities.

There are a number of limitations in this study, one of which is that it is a survey, and therefore the data collection may have recall bias. However, the high standards of collection of data maintained by the CDC and NHIS and the fact that these surveys have been used in other studies need to be taken into account. An important consideration is that awareness of hearing difficulty and proper screening, as well as management, will allow for a lowered risks and burden of accidental injuries in the population. Audiologists, as well as auto laryngologists, could play a very important role in developing local, state, and federal policies as well as to educate the public.

Written by Sonia Leslie Fernandez, Medical News Writer

Reference: Lin, H. W., Mahboubi, H., & Bhattacharyya, N. (2018). Self-reported hearing difficulty and risk of accidental injury in US adults, 2007 to 2015. JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery.



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