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Improved hearing in Swedish 70-year olds—a cohort comparison over more than four decades (1971–2014)

Journal article
Authors Maria Hoff
Tomas Tengstrand
André M. Sadeghi
Ingmar Skoog
Ulf Rosenhall
Published in Age and Ageing
Volume 47
Issue 3
Pages 437-444
ISSN 0002-0729
Publication year 2018
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Health and Rehabilitation
Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry
Centre for Ageing and Health (Agecap)
Pages 437-444
Language en
Keywords Ageing, Hearing, Cohort Comparison
Subject categories Gerontology, specializing in Medical and Health Sciences, Geriatrics, Audiology


Objective the world population is ageing rapidly. In light of these demographic changes, it is of interest to generate current data regarding the prevalence and characteristics of age-related hearing loss. The purpose of this study was to investigate hearing acuity and the prevalence of hearing loss in a contemporary age-homogenous cohort of old adults, and to assess secular trends in hearing function during the last half-century (1971–2014). Methods we performed a prospective population-based cohort comparison study of unscreened populations. As part of a geriatric population-based study (H70), a new cohort of 70-year olds (n = 1,135) born in 1944 was tested with computerised automated pure-tone audiometry. The hearing thresholds were compared to three earlier born cohorts of 70-year olds, born in 1901–02 (n = 376), 1906–07 (n = 297) and 1922 (n = 226), respectively. Results significant improvements in median pure-tone thresholds were seen at several frequencies in both men (range: 5–20 dB, P < 0.01) and women (range: 5–10 dB, P < 0.01). When investigating the effect of birth cohort on hearing in a linear regression, significant trends were found. Men’s hearing improved more than women’s. The prevalence of hearing loss declined in the study period (1971–2014) from 53 to 28% for men and 37 to 23% for women (P < 0.01). Conclusions these results indicate that the hearing acuity in Swedish 70-year olds has improved significantly over more than four decades. The largest improvements were seen at 4–6 kHz in men, possibly reflecting a decrease in occupational noise exposure. Further studies are required to pinpoint the reasons for improved hearing-health among older people.

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