Facts about deafness & hearing loss
Hearing loss statistics in the UK
It is estimated that there are approximately 11 million people in this country with a hearing loss which makes it the second most common disability in the UK.
However, as an invisible disability, it so often goes unnoticed, making it easier for those living with hearing loss to be ignored or forgotten.
- 1 in 6 of the UK adult population is affected by hearing loss.
- 8 million of these are aged 60 and over.
- 6.7 million could benefit from hearing aids but only about 2 million people use them.
- About 900,000 people are severely or profoundly deaf.
- About 12,000 people in the UK use cochlear implants.
- Many people with hearing loss also have tinnitus which affects 1 in 10 adults. They may also have balance difficulties.
- Hearing loss is associated not only with mental health conditions (see below) but also with numerous physical health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, anaemia, chronic kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, sleep apnea, balance problems and an increased risk of falls. Please visit our page on causes of hearing loss.
Hearing loss in older people
Hearing loss increases sharply with age – nearly 42% of those aged over 50 years have hearing loss, increasing to about 71% of people aged 70+.
About 400,000 older people live in care homes and are disproportionately affected by hearing loss, with approximately 75% of residents having a hearing problem.
Unassisted hearing loss have a significant impact on older people leading to social isolation, depression, reduced quality of life and loss of independence and mobility.
Hearing loss and dementia
When hearing loss is unassisted, those with a mild hearing loss are twice as likely to develop dementia as people without hearing loss, whilst those with moderate hearing loss are three times more likely to develop dementia and those with severe hearing loss are five times more likely to develop dementia.
There is evidence that cognitive decline can be addressed through early detection of hearing loss and the provision of amplification.
It is estimated that at least £28 million per year could be saved in England by properly managing hearing loss in people with dementia.
Deafness employment statistics UK
At least 4.4 million people with hearing loss are of working age.
The employment rate for those with hearing loss is 65%, compared to 79% of people with no long-term health issue or disability.
On average, people with hearing loss are paid £2,000 less per year than the general population; this amounts to £4 billion per year in lost income across the UK.
Recent estimates suggest that the UK economy loses £25 billion a year in lost productivity and unemployment due to hearing loss.
Research in 2014 on the experience of people with hearing loss and employment found that:
- Almost three-quarters (74%) of respondents felt that their employment opportunities were limited because of their hearing loss.
- 70% agreed that their hearing loss sometimes prevented them from fulfilling their potential at work.
- Just over two-thirds (68%) agreed that they sometimes felt isolated at work because of their hearing loss.
- Two-fifths (41%) had retired early due to the impact of their hearing loss and struggles with communication at work.
Hearing loss and deafness in the future
The number of people with hearing is increasing. Estimates suggest that by 2035, about 15.6 million people in the UK will have hearing loss – that’s one in five of the population.
If nothing is done to address lower employment rates for those with hearing loss, by 2031 the UK economy will lose £38.6bn per year in potential economic output.
By 2030, adult onset hearing loss will be in the top ten of disease burdens in the UK above cataracts and diabetes as measured by disability life adjusted years.
Words describing deafness and hearing loss
There are no rights and wrongs about the words used to describe a person’s hearing loss. However, generally accepted definitions are as follows:
- Deafened – people who were born with hearing and have lost most or all of their hearing later in life.
- Hard of hearing – people who have lost some but not all hearing.
- deaf (lower case ‘d’) – people who have hearing loss; they may be born deaf or become deaf. They mix well in the hearing world and may communicate orally and may also be users of sign language.
- Deaf (upper case ‘D’) refers to people who are members of the Deaf community and who communicate almost exclusively with sign language.
- Hearing impaired – anyone with any level of hearing loss.
- Acquired hearing loss – people who were born with hearing but have lost some or all of their hearing.
- Congenital hearing loss – born with hearing loss which may become progressively worse.
NHS England: Hearing loss and healthy ageing. 2017.
NHS England & Dept for Work and Pensions: Hearing loss and employment. 2017.
The Real Cost of Adult Hearing Loss: reducing its impact by increasing access to the latest hearing technologies. Sue Archbold PhD, Brian Lamb OBE, Ciaran O’Neill PhD, John Atkins MBA. The Ear Foundation. 2013.
Improving access to cochlear implantation: Change lives and save society money Brian Lamb OBE, Sue Archbold PhD and Ciaran O’Neill PhD. The Ear Foundation. 2016
Adult Hearing Screening: Can we afford to wait any longer? Brian Lamb OBE, Sue Archbold PhD. The Ear Foundation. 2016.
Adults with hearing loss: hearing aid and implant? Sarah Allen, Sue Archbold, Brian Lamb, Melanie Gregory and Zheng Yen Ng. The Ear Foundation. 2017.
More than 15 million Britons will suffer from hearing loss by 2035. Report from Action on Hearing Loss. 2015.
Hearing Matters. RNID, 2015
Hearing Loss and Associated Comorbidities: What Do We Know? Dr Harvey Abrams. The Hearing Review. 2017.
Facts and figures on hearing loss, deafness and tinnitus. RNID.
Working for Change 2018. Workplace experiences. Survey results. Action on Hearing Loss.
Webpage updated: April 2021