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Hearing Loss Facts & Statistics

America’s #1 Overlooked Disability

48 million Americans suffer from hearing loss [1]

National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) figures show that patients with hearing loss are distributed across all age groups:

  • 19.5% of adolescents ages 12 to 19 years (2010 figures were up from 14.9% eight years earlier) [2]
  • 15% of Americans ages 20 to 69
  • 40% of American males with hearing loss began losing their hearing between ages 19 to 44
  • 18% of adults ages 45 to 64
  • 30% of adults ages 65 to 74
  • 47% of adults 75 and older (Frank Lin found two-thirds of people 70 and older)[3]
  • 90% of adults over 80 [4]

1 million Massachusetts residents suffer from hearing loss according to The Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MCDHH).  1.27 million Massachusetts residents were age 60 and older in 2010 according to the U.S. Census.  UMASS found 16% of Massachusetts women and 13% of men 65+ reported hearing loss in 2008. [5]

50 million U.S. adults report tinnitus (ringing in the ear) – 16 million report frequent tinnitus in the past year [6]

  • 5% of tinnitus cases are caused by correctable physiological problems and 95% are for unknown causes.
  • 25% of those with tinnitus describe it as disabling or near disabling. [7]
  • Half of depressed tinnitus patients reported their depression preceded tinnitus. [8]
  • 13 million reporting tinnitus did not have hearing loss, but researchers believe the majority of these cases are at greater risk of developing hearing loss over time.

According to the Veterans Administration, tinnitus and hearing loss are the two largest disability claims among troops returning from the Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam wars. Veterans Administration statistics for the decade ending in 2010:

  • 840,865 service related tinnitus
  • 701,760 hearing loss
  • 501,280 post-traumatic stress disorder

It takes on average 7 years from the onset of hearing loss for patients to start wearing hearing aids.   The International Hearing Society puts this figure closer to 9 years.  Former New York Times editor and author of Shouting Won’t Help, Why I – and 50 Million Other Americans – Can’t Hear You, Katherine Bouton said it took her more than 20 years even though her physician had been advising her to seek hearing care treatment. [10]

Only one in seven patients with hearing loss over age 50 uses hearing aids – 4.5% of those age 50 to 59. The figure increases to 22.1% of those over age 80. [11]   Only one in three that need hearing aids actually wear them in the United Kingdom where the national health system provides hearing aids for free. [12]

[Hearing Partnership™ perspective: The evidence suggests that financial barriers are NOT the primary reason for low hearing aid adoption rates.]


[1] “Hearing Loss Prevalence in the United States”, Frank B. Lin, John K. Niparko, and Luigi Ferrucci, Archives of Internal Medicine, November 14, 2011.  The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NICDC) pegs this statistic at 36 million. The Lin figures are based on hearing test results in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The NIDCD figures were based on patient self reporting.

[2] “Change in Prevalence of Hearing Loss in U.S. Adolescents,” by Josef Shargorodsky, Sharon C. Curhan, and Roland Eavey, Journal of the American Medical Association, August 18, 2010.

[3] According to Frank Lin and colleagues, two-thirds of Americans age 70 and older suffer from hearing loss, “Hearing Loss Prevalence and Risk Factors Among Older Adults in the United States,” by Frank B. Lin, Roland Thorpe, Sandra Gordon-Salant, and Luigi Ferrucci, Journal of Gerontology, May 2011.

[4] “The Prevalence of Hearing Impairment and Associated Risk Factors,” by Scott D.E. Nash et al.,Archives of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, May 2011.

[5] Abigail Butt and Jan Mutchler, “Disability Status in Massachusetts 2008: Characteristics of Older Adults Aged 65 & Over,” The Gerontology Institute, UMASS Boston

[6] 1994-2004 NHANES database.

[7] Better Hearing Institute MarkeTrak VIII: “The Prevalence of Tinnitus in the United States and the Self-Reported Efficacy of Various Treatments, “ by Sergei Kochlin, Richard Tyler, and Jennifer Born in Hearing Review, November 2011.

[8] Robert Dobie, “Overview: Suffering from Tinnitus,” appears as chapter 1 in Tinnitus: Theory and Management by James Byron Snow. 2004.

[9] The NICDC sets this figure at one in five from self- reported data on hearing aid use.

[10] Katherine Bouton, Shouting Won’t Help: Why I – and 50 Million Other Americans – Can’t Hear You, Sarah Crichton Books, New York, 2013.

[11] “Hearing Loss Prevalence in the United States”, Frank B. Lin, John K. Niparko, and Luigi Ferrucci, Archives of Internal Medicine, November 14, 2011

[12]  The NICDC sets this figure at one in five from self- reported data on hearing aid use.