High Frequency Hearing Sensitivity in Adolescent Females of a Lower Socioeconomic Status Over a Period of 24 Years (1985–2008)

  • Abbey L. Berg
    Address correspondence to: Abbey L. Berg, Ph.D., Department of Biology and Health Sciences, Pace University, 41 Park Row, Room 509, New York, NY 10038
    Department of Biology and Health Sciences, Communication Sciences and Disorders Program, Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, Pace University, New York, New York

    Departments of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery and Pediatrics, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York
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  • Yula C. Serpanos
    Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Adelphi University, Garden City, New York
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Published:September 01, 2010DOI:



      To examine annually over a period of 24 years, the high frequency hearing sensitivity in different groups of urban female adolescents with a low socioeconomic status (SES) and residential foster care.


      Hearing screening (15 decibel [dB] hearing level ranging from 1,000 to 8,000 Hertz [Hz]) and threshold (>15 dB hearing level) records were obtained from 8,710 female adolescents (mean age, 15.8 years [range, 12–20 years]), predominantly Hispanic and African American from households with a low SES. Data related to the use of personal listening devices (PLDs), daily hours of usage, occurrence of tinnitus, and hearing thresholds between 1,000 and 8,000 Hz over an 8-year period (2001–2008) were obtained from the adolescents.


      High frequency hearing loss (HFHL) doubled over the 24-year period from 10.1% in 1985 to 19.2% in 2008. In comparison with the general adolescent population, this group of female adolescents presented with a higher percentage of bilateral mild or greater degrees of HFHL at two or more frequencies including 3,000, 4,000, and 6,000 Hz. Use of PLDs increased four-fold, from 18.3% (n = 68) in 2001 to 76.4% (n = 227) in 2008. Of the total number reporting tinnitus (n = 286), 99.7% (n = 285) also reported regular PLD use. A significant relationship was found between PLD use and reported tinnitus and HFHL irrespective of time of use of PLD.


      Increased incidence of HFHL, reported tinnitus, PLD use, and hours of daily use in at-risk female adolescents of a low SES was found. A frequency interval of 3,000–6,000 Hz should be included in hearing screening protocols to identify potentially disabling hearing loss. Hearing conservation strategies need to be developed and/or modified that target and reach at-risk children and adolescents.


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