The Incidence of Hearing Loss Around the World

Robert Traynor
April 6, 2011


Since this is the first post at Hearing International, a brand new blog at a brand new address –, it is fitting that we start at the beginning by discussing the incidence of hearing loss around the world. Hearing impairment is considered the most prevalent impairment worldwide.  Almost 600 million, an estimated 10% of people worldwide, have mild or worse hearing impairment. 250 million have moderate or worse hearing impairment. Two thirds of the world’s hearing impaired population reside in developing countries.

According to (2011), Professor Adrian Davis of the British MRC Institute of Hearing Research estimates that the total number of people suffering from hearing loss of more than 25 dB will exceed 700 million worldwide by 2015.  Davis’s statistics suggest that more than 900 million people worldwide will suffer from hearing loss of more than 25 dB in 2025. Generally, more is known about the incidence of hearing impairment in Europe and the United States due to the development of the healthcare systems.  This sophistication allows for better record keeping and facilitates more accuracy than in underdeveloped countries where data is scarce.


Europe Map

Of those 900 million hearing impaired in the world in 2025, some 90 million will be Europeans.  Anteunis (1999) found hearing impairment in up to 20% of adults (some 52 million people in Europe) and in 36% of people then aged 55 years and older.

Due to the aging population in Europe, the overall prevalence of hearing impairment is likely to rise to some 30% of people in the next century. Shield (2006) found that 19 percent of the UK men and 13 percent of UK women above 16 years of age report that they suffer from hearing loss.

Most European countries studied were higher than the usual 10% of the population often considered and the incidence of the impairment.  Shield (2006) presents specific facts on the incidence of hearing impairment in Europe.

  • The frequency in Germany may be as high as 1 in 5.
  • Finland 1 in 7 suffer from varying degrees of hearing loss.
  • Italy 1 in 6 is suffering from some form of hearing loss.
  • 1 in 10 has hearing loss in Denmark and Sweden.

Eiffel Tower


The healthiest population in hearing terms was found
in France where just 7 percent suffer from hearing loss.



United States

ASHA (2011) indicates that the number of Americans with a hearing loss has evidentially doubled during the past 30 years. Data gleaned from Federal surveys illustrate the following trend of prevalence for individuals aged three years or older:

US Map


13.2 million (1971) , 14.2 million (1977), 20.3 million (1991), and 24.2 million (1993) (Ries, 1993; Benson and Morano, 1995).   Kochkin (2001) estimated that 28.6 million Americans had an auditory disorder in 2000. All of these estimates are well within projections from the 1971-1993 trend line evolving from Federal surveys (Mohr, Feldman and Dunbar, 2000).


Today’s American surveys have estimated the number of hearing-impaired people in North America to be more than 25 million in a total population of 300 million. Specific to the current incidence in the US , Kochkin (2011)  offers some facts:

  • 3 in 10 people over age 60 have hearing loss;
  • 1 in 6 baby boomers (ages 41-59), or 14.6%, have a hearing problem;
  • 1 in 14 Generation Xers (ages 29-40), or 7.4%, already have hearing loss;
  • At least 1.4 million children (18 or younger) have hearing problems.

It is estimated that 3 in 1,000 infants are born with serious to profound hearing loss.

Developing World

Across the globe, more than 100 countries are considered “developing countries” and these same countries contain some 80 percent of the world’s population, as well as 2/3 of the hearing impaired population. Obtaining accurate figures in the developing world is difficult as records are scarce and the population with hearing impairment is huge.  CBM (2011) estimates that out of the 600 million hearing impaired worldwide, 400 million reside in developing countries. Data posted at (2011;,Tucci, Merson and Wilson (2010) indicate that more than 278 million people have moderate-to-profound hearing loss in both ears, and also present that most people who have hearing loss live in developing countries.  Although 50% of these hearing losses could be prevented, the availability and cost of health care in these developing nations often makes treatment prohibitive.  In developed countries, the incidence of congenital, bilateral sensorineural hearing loss (greater than 40 dB) is estimated at 2 to 4 per 1,000 live births, while in developing countries, the incidence of congenital  is estimated to be not less than 6 per 1000 live births.  In addition to the availability of healthcare, living conditions, poor governments and other factors contributing to congenital hearing impairment, there are cultural issues that contribute to hearing impairment.  One such factor in many developing countries is consanguineous marriage.

Consanguineous marriage

In many countries, particularly the Middle East, the incidence of hearing impairment is actually higher than the most developing nations due to consanguineous marriage (Zakzouk, 2002). Austrolabe (2006) indicates that while Western culture might view consanguineous marriage or marriage among relatives as somewhat distasteful, these marriages have been a common feature of Arab and some Muslim societies for thousands of years. The marrying of one’s child to a family member in these cultures is seen as a means of maintaining the wealth of the family within the family, and mitigating against the risk of marrying one’s daughter or son into a family with which one might not be fully familiar.  Although the risk of hearing loss and other handicaps may be marginally increased with the first generation born from such a relationship, the risk of hearing loss and other devastating congenital handicaps increase significantly down the bloodline with each successive consanguineous marriage.  Zakzouk (2002) has conducted surveys among 1st and 2nd cousins and found about 66% of the 1st cousin offspring had hearing loss and those from a 2nd cousin relationship had an incidence of 37%.  In developing nations, not only is there the challenge of healthcare, distance between hospitals as well as other dangerous issues, but cultural issues that also affect the incidence of hearing impairment.


I am looking for great articles from guest writers/bloggers that have an international flavor.  Send your 500-1000 word article to .

References:, (2011).  Global hearing loss and related issues.  Retrieved from the World Wide Web April 2, 2011:, (2006). Consanguineous marriage amongst Muslims.  Retrieved from the World Wide Web:  April 1, 2011:

Anteunis, L., (1999), HEARING AIDS BRING ENORMOUS BENEFITS FOR SOCIETY – CONCLUDES PILOT STUDY.  European Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association.  Retrieved from the World Wide Web March 22, 2011:

ASHA, (2011).  The prevalence and incidence of hearing loss in adults,  Retrieved from the World Wide Web March30, 2011:

Benson, V., & Marano, M.A. (1995). Current estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, 1993. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 10(190).

CBM (2011). Hearing loss in the developing world.  Retrieved from the World Wide Web:  March 30, 2011:

Hear and Say Centre, (2011).  Welcome Page.  Retrieved from the World Wide Web:  April 1, 2011:

Kochkin, S. (2011).  Prevelance of hearing loss, Better Hearing Institute, Retrieved from the World Wide Web March 21, 2011:

Kochkin, S. (2001, December). MarkeTrak VI: The VA and direct mail sales spark growth in hearing aid market. The Hearing Review, 8(12): 16-24, 63-65.

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