The Stark Statistics of Hearing Loss in the USA

Statistics reveal the numerical perception of the silent world intertwined with the hearing world. First, find a bit of trivia for the big picture. Public health data enlists hearing loss as the third commonest physical condition in the US, after arthritis and coronary diseases respectively. The loss range of 35 to 70 dB is in the hard-hearing category. When the range is over 90 dB, the person is profoundly deaf.

Indeed, it is surprising that despite the acute prevalence of the condition, deafness remains largely unrecognized. A common perception is that most signers are born deaf. However, there are other forms of deafness as well. These include deafness due to an abrupt exposure to loud noise (explosion), impairment from workplace noise pollution, deafness due to aging, and loss of hearing from internal ear injuries.

Adult deafness

Put into figures, almost 20% of the adult population in US reports different degrees of hearing impairment. The actual number is around 48 million according to the Hearing Loss Association of America.

The American Speech Language Hearing Association also identifies a doubling of the number of deaf people in the last 30 years. While the number was at 13.2 million in 1971, by the year 2000, the numbers were at 28.6 million.

A study by Blanchfield, et al., reported that there were about 738,000 US citizens in the profound hearing loss category.

Ageing is in fact a major reason of adult hearing loss. Studies indicate that about one in three adults gradually and permanently lose their hearing powers after the age of 65 (presbycusis). Often, ageing hearing impairment is confused with dementia!

People hard of hearing are silent strugglers. 60% of the hearing impaired population are actively struggling in the general workforce or in the usual educational settings.

Congenital deafness data

  • The American Speech Language Hearing Association notes that 7/8 babies in every 1000 newborns are born deaf.
  • Sometimes, congenital impairment may even take as much as 9 years of childhood to be fully evident.
  • Another vital factor to note is the fact that 9 out of 10 newborns with a hearing impairment have hearing parents. Deaf community achievers suggest parents to accept the silent world instead of force-feeding noise. Hearing aids are always there, but the heritage of sign language is also centuries old.
  • The latest data from CDC (2009) reports 2 infants in every 1000 to be born with congenital deafness.

An overview of the data presents a clear sign of recognition to this major health issue. There are different layers to the issue. People of the deaf community using ASL (American Sign Language) have a positive connotation, a sense of exclusive privilege. However, the same sentiment may not be common in people who lose hearing by explosion impact, infections, injuries, and aging.