Prevalence and Impact of Hearing Loss

Three out of every 10 people in the United States have hearing loss. While hearing loss can occur at any age, including birth, the prevalence of hearing loss clearly increases with age. Even so, one in six between 40 and 60 years of age has hearing loss and the majority of people with hearing loss are younger than 65 years of age. In fact, more than 34 million Americans suffer from hearing loss and roughly 60 percent of them are in the workforce.

The number of children with permanent hearing loss is far fewer than the number of adults. However, the prevalence of hearing loss in children is almost staggering if we consider those children whose speech and language development and academic performances may be impacted by mild temporary ear infections so common among children. While not all children have problems secondary to ear pathologies, 90 percent of children in the United States will have at least one ear infection before 6 years of age.

The impact of hearing loss cannot be addressed until diagnosed, and, left untreated, hearing loss among adults can seriously erode relationships both within and outside of the family unit. Research has demonstrated that among older adults hearing loss is related to overall poorer health, decreased physical activity and depression and may be associated with progressive physical and psychosocial dysfunction. Among younger adults, untreated hearing loss can increase levels of frustration, anger, social isolation and marital strife.

In a large national study, the Better Hearing Institute found that people with untreated hearing loss lose as much as $30,000 in income annually, depending on their degree of hearing loss. The total yearly loss in income due to underemployment for people with untreated hearing loss is an estimated $176 billion, and the fiscal cost to society in unrealized federal taxes is an estimated $26 billion. Use of hearing aids was shown to reduce the risk of income loss by 90 to 100 percent for those with milder hearing loss, and from 65 to 77 percent for those with moderate to severe hearing loss.

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