Deafness Facts and Statistics: What You Need to Know

In the United States, approximately 30 million people (1 out of 8) over age 12 have hearing loss in both ears. About 2 children of every 1,000 in the United States are born with a degree of hearing loss in one or both ears.

This article will highlight important facts about hearing loss, including details about what hearing loss is, who it affects, risk factors, and causes.

Adult having ears checked by healthcare provider

FatCamera / Getty Images

Deafness Overview

Deafness can most simply be defined as full or partial hearing loss in one or both ears. The terms "deafness" and "hearing loss" may be used interchangeably.

There are different types and causes of deafness. For example, sensorineural hearing loss (caused by a problem in the inner ear, which is housed by the cochlea or the nerve pathways from the cochlea to the brain), and conductive hearing loss (caused by problems that block sound from reaching the inner ear).

How Common Is Deafness?

There is a direct correlation between deafness and age, and so the number of people with hearing loss goes up as age increases. Only about 2 out of 1,000 infants screened show detectable hearing loss. Meanwhile, approximately 1 of every 2 people (half) over the age of 75 experience disabling deafness. Hearing loss is extremely common in older adults.

The overall prevalence of hearing loss for adults age 20 to 69 has decreased slightly. When measured during the time period of 1999 to 2004, the rate was 16% as compared to 14% when measured from 2011 to 2012.

Infants and Children

Statistics for hearing loss in infants and children in the United States include:

  • Newborns: 1.7 of every 1,000 babies screened for hearing loss at birth have a detectable amount of deafness.
  • Children age 3–17 years: 5 per 1,000 have hearing loss as reported by a parent.
  • Children age 8 years: A study of 8-year-olds in Atlanta found 1.4 per 1,000 had profound hearing loss in one or both ears (more than 40 decibels).


Statistics for adults in the United States include:

  • Over age 12: 1 in 8 people have hearing loss in one or both ears as identified by standard hearing tests.
  • Over age 18: 37.5 million people report some degree of hearing loss.
  • Age 65–74: About 1 in 4 (25%) have disabling hearing loss.
  • Over age 75: Approximately 1 of every 2 adults have disabling hearing loss.

Deafness by Ethnicity

Deafness occurs among people of all racial or ethnic groups. You are much more likely to be diagnosed with deafness in the United States if you are a non-Hispanic White adult than if you belong to another ethnic group.

The ethnic group with the next highest prevalence of diagnosed deafness in the United States are non-Hispanic Black adults, followed by Hispanic adults, with Asian adults having the lowest prevalence of deafness.

Deafness by Age and Gender

Older age is the greatest factor for hearing loss. Your chance of developing hearing loss increases significantly the older you get. For example:

  • 63 out of 1,000 adults age 18–44 have difficulty hearing
  • 136 out of 1,000 adults age 45–64 have difficulty hearing
  • 268 out of 1,000 adults over age 65 have difficulty hearing

Among adults aged 20 to 69, men are almost twice as likely to have hearing loss than women.

Causes of Deafness and Risk Factors

There are several different types of deafness. Each has unique causes and risk factors.

Conductive hearing loss causes include:

Sensorineural hearing loss causes include:

  • Noise-induced hearing loss
  • Age-related hearing loss
  • Injuries
  • Infectious diseases including measles and mumps
  • Medications that are toxic to the ear

Congenital hearing loss is hearing loss that is present at birth. Causes include:

  • Infections during pregnancy
  • Genetics
  • Injuries during birth
  • Drug or alcohol use while pregnant
  • Gestational diabetes (high blood sugar while pregnant that was not present before pregnancy)
  • Preeclampsia (high blood pressure and protein in the urine while pregnant)
  • Oxygen deprivation
  • Premature birth and low birth weight

If an individual has more than one type of hearing loss, it is often referred to as mixed hearing loss.

Screening and Early Detection of Deafness

Most newborns in the United States are screened for hearing loss before leaving the hospital after birth. Early detection of hearing loss is important for infants and children so they can receive therapy to develop communication skills and treatment or assistive devices that may improve their hearing.

Children should be screened for hearing loss throughout childhood, specifically at ages 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, between 11 and 14, between 15 and 17, and between 18 and 21.

If you have failed a hearing screening or suspect hearing loss (at any age), you should visit a healthcare provider or audiologist for further evaluation.

Several types of hearing tests are available to detect deafness, including auditory brain stem evoked response (BAER) testing, otoacoustic emissions testing (OAE), and behavioral audiometry testing.


More than 30 million people in the United States have hearing loss in one or both ears. Your chance of developing hearing loss is higher if you are male than female, and the incidence increases significantly as you age. Hearing loss is diagnosed more often in people who are non-Hispanic White than in other populations in the United States.

There are several types and causes of hearing loss. Some are curable, and others are not. Most types of hearing loss are treatable.

Most infants in the United States have been screened for hearing loss. Anyone who suspects they have hearing loss, regardless of age, should visit a qualified healthcare professional such as an audiologist for proper testing.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Quick statistics about hearing.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data and statistics about hearing loss in children.

  3. Hoffman HJ, Dobie RA, Losonczy KG, Themann CL, Flamme GA. Declining prevalence of hearing loss in US adults aged 20 to 69 yearsJAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017;143(3):274–285. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2016.3527

  4. Van Naarden Braun K, Christensen D, Doernberg N, et al. Trends in the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, hearing loss, intellectual disability, and vision impairment, metropolitan Atlanta, 1991-2010. PLoS One. 2015;10(4):e0124120. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0124120

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hearing difficulties among adults: United States, 2019.

  6. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Conductive hearing loss.

  7. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Hearing loss at birth (congenital hearing loss).

  8. American Academy of Pediatrics. Newborn hearing screening FAQs.

  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Screening and diagnosis of hearing loss.

By Kristin Hayes, RN
Kristin Hayes, RN, is a registered nurse specializing in ear, nose, and throat disorders for both adults and children.