Deafness & hearing loss facts

Hearing loss statistics in the UK

It is estimated that there are approximately 12 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 5 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.

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Hearing loss and dementia

When hearing loss is left untreated it can lead to other long-term health problems.

Recent research has shown links between untreated hearing loss and dementia. It has been identified as one of twelve main factors that leads to the highest risk of developing dementia. (Source: Alzheimer’s Society)

Hearing is a important part of brain health. There’s a greater risk of developing dementia due to hearing loss because of factors such as:

  • Isolation
  • Depression
  • And, your brain working harder to process sounds, which affects memory, etc.

Research suggests if you have untreated mild hearing loss, you are are twice as likely to develop dementia than those without hearing loss. (Source: RNID) A person with a moderate level hearing loss is three times more likely to develop dementia and those with severe hearing loss are five times more likely to develop dementia.

There is continual research into the link between cognitive decline and hearing loss. Here are some articles with further information:

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 loss 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 level of hearing.

Everyone has their own way of describing the challenges they face,

However, generally the following terms are used by deaf people and those with hearing loss to describe themselves.

  • Hearing impairment / hearing loss – anyone with any level of hearing loss.
  • Deaf (upper case ‘D’) refers to people who are members of the Deaf community and who communicate almost exclusively with sign language.
  • 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.
  • Acquired hearing loss – people who were born with hearing but have lost some or all of their hearing later in life.
  • Congenital hearing loss – born with hearing loss which may become progressively worse.

References

Webpage updated: April 2024

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