Hearing Loss – Prevalence

The Prevalence Of Hearing Loss
Types Of Hearing Loss
  • Hearing loss is referred to as the silent, overlooked epidemic in developing countries.
  • Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the United States and affects more than 31 million Americans.
  • Permanent childhood hearing loss globally affects over 62 million children under the age of 15 years
  • An estimated 718 000 infants are either born with or acquire permanent bilateral hearing impairment every year. Every day, almost 2000 babies around the world are born with or acquire permanent bilateral hearing loss. This figure increases significantly if milder and unilateral hearing losses are included.
  • Approximately 30% of hearing impaired children have an additional disability.
  • In developing countries the prevalence is greater because of a lack of immunization, greater exposure to toxic agents and consanguinity.

South Africa



  • No large-scale systematic newborn hearing screening programs have been conducted in South Africa to determine the true prevalence of infant hearing loss. The extent of hearing loss can however be estimated using recently reported prevalence rates.
  • In the public health sector which serves people from developing contexts, babies born with permanent bilateral hearing loss is estimated at 6 per every 1000 babies born.
  • For the private health sector the prevalence rate is estimated to be 3 per every 1000 babies born.
  • When these estimated rates are applied to approximated South African live birth rates for the private and public health sectors, an estimated 6116 infants will be born with or acquire permanent bilateral hearing loss annually.
  • Therefore, every day 17 babies are born with or will develop hearing loss.

Important Notes:

  • About half of the disabling cases of hearing loss worldwide are preventable
  • 92% of children with permanent hearing loss are born to two hearing parents.
  • Infant hearing loss is undetectable by routine clinical examination by a clinic or General Practitioner.
  • Parents usually suspect a hearing loss before the doctor does.
  • Without hearing screening at birth using objective prescribed methods, hearing loss on average is only diagnosed after 2 years of age due to
  • Parental concern about perceived delays in speech development.
    Hearing screening and early identification programs are currently entirely dependent on individual initiatives by Audiologists.

Infants with hearing loss have excellent linguistic, cognitive, socio-emotional and academic outcomes, potentially matching those of their hearing peers if the loss is identified early and intervention initiated by 6-9 months of age.


  • Hearing loss is prevalent in nearly two thirds of adults aged 70 years and older in the U.S. population.
  • Approximately 17 percent (36 million) of American adults report some degree of hearing loss.
  • The NIDCD estimates that approximately 15 percent (26 million) of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have high frequency hearing loss due to exposure to loud sounds or noise at work or in leisure activities.
  • Men are more likely to experience hearing loss than women.
  • Of adults ages 65 and older 12.3 percent of men and nearly 14 percent of women are affected by tinnitus.
  • There is a strong relationship between age and reported hearing loss: 18 percent of adults 45-64 years old, 30 percent of adults 65-74 years old, and 47 percent of adults 75 years old or older have a hearing loss.
  • Only 1 out of 5 people who could benefit from a hearing aid actually wears one.

InĀ 2012, WHO released new estimates on the magnitude of disabling hearing loss:


  • There are 360 million persons in the world with disabling hearing loss (5.3% of the world’s population).
  • 328 million (91%) of these are adults (183 million males, 145 million females)
  • 32 million (9%) of these, are children.
  • Approximately one-third of persons over 65 years are affected by disabling hearing loss.

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