There are 10.1 million people with hearing loss in England, that's around one in five of the population.
By 2035, it is estimated that there will be around 14.2 million people with hearing loss greater than 25dB HL across the UK.
There are at least 50,000 deaf children in the UK. Around half are born deaf while the other half lose their hearing during childhood.
An estimated 1.2 million adults in the UK have hearing loss severe enough that they would not be able to hear most conversational speech.
There are over 20,000 people in the UK who use cochlear implants
More than 40% of people over 50 years old have hearing loss, rising to 71% of people over the age of 70.
Around one in 7 adults has tinnitus, that's more than 7 million in the UK.
It is estimated that there are at least 25,000 people across the UK who use British Sign Language (BSL) as their main language (though the figure could be higher than this).
Impact of Hearing Loss
In 2019 age-related hearing loss was the third largest source of global Years Lived with Disability and the leading cause for adults older than 70 years of age (WHO 2021). People with hearing loss are more likely to use health services and hearing loss has been associated with an increased burden of disease amongst adults and an increased risk of mortality (Karpa et al, 2010).
Hearing loss has been shown to have a negative impact on overall health and is associated with an increased use of health care and a greater burden of illness in older adults even when all other relevant variables are controlled for (Genther et al 2013).
The impact on health includes;
Unaddressed hearing loss can lead to loneliness, emotional distress, withdrawal from social situations and mental health problems (Arlinger, 2003). People who receive support for their hearing loss are less likely to become socially isolated.
BSL users who need to access health and social care and support for other conditions may also be at risk of loneliness and loss of cultural identity if they are unable to communicate in a meaningful way with care staff or other people in care homes. Evidence suggests that poor communication or lack of awareness of Deaf culture could lead to ineffective care and deterioration in health and wellbeing (Hunt et al, 2010).
Older people with hearing loss are two and half times more likely to experience depression than those without hearing loss 18 and are also at increased risk of major depression (Davis, 2011). People with hearing loss are more likely to develop mental health issues - for example, evidence shows that hearing loss doubles the risk of developing depression (Saito et al, 2010). There is good evidence that hearing aids may reduce these risks but many people are waiting too long to seek help for their hearing difficulties.
People who use BSL may be reluctant to contact their GP due to communication barriers (Glasgow Caledonian University, 2009) and when they do, poor deaf awareness may lead to misdiagnosis or under-diagnosis of mental health problems (Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2017).
Cognitive decline and dementia;
People with mild hearing loss are twice as likely to develop dementia as people without hearing loss, and the risk increases threefold for people with severe hearing loss (Lin et al., 2011). Hearing loss is associated not only with the risk of the early onset of dementia, but also accelerates the rate of cognitive decline (Gurgel et al., 2014). The Lancet Commission on Dementia has also reported that hearing loss is the main modifiable risk factor in dementia -suggesting that eliminating the risk associated with hearing loss could reduce dementia cases by 8 percent (Livingston et al., 2020). Research suggests that hearing aids might reduce the risk of cognitive decline and the onset of dementia (Amieva et al., 2015; Dawes et al., 2015; Maharani et al., 2018, Huang et al., 2023, Lin et al., 2023).
Balance and Falls
Hearing loss has been independently associated with falls (Lin and Ferrucci 2012). Older people with dual sensory loss are also more likely to have falls compared to people with sight loss only by up to three times.36 It has been suggested that this is due to hearing loss preventing people with sight loss from hearing information that would help them navigate their environment (Crews and Campbell, 2004).
Additional use of Social Care;
Poor management of hearing loss can result in additional care costs. It has been estimated that at least £28 million could be saved by Social Care services in the UK if hearing loss was properly managed in people with severe dementia in the community, thus delaying their need for admission into costly residential care (AOHL 2013).
Lower rates of Employment;
Estimates in 2013 suggest that the UK economy lost £24.8bn in potential economic output due to lower employment rates for those with hearing loss than across the rest of the population (ICL 2014).
Arlinger, 2003. Negative consequences of uncorrected hearing loss - a review. International Journal of Audiology, 42 (2), 17-20
Amieva et al, 2015. Self-Reported Hearing Loss, Hearing Aids, and Cognitive Decline in Elderly Adults: A 25-Year Study. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 63 (10), 2099-2104;
Crews and Campbell, 2004. Vision impairment and hearing loss among community-dwelling older Americans: implications for health and functioning. American Journal of Public Health, 94 (5), 823-829.
Davis, A. (2011) National Survey of Hearing and Communication.
Deal et al, 2015. Hearing impairment and cognitive decline: A pilot study conducted within the atherosclerosis risk in communities neurocognitive study. American Journal of Epidemiology, 181(9), 680-90.
Genther et al., (2013) Association of hearing loss with hospitalization and burden of disease in older adults. Journal of the American Medical Association 309(22): 2322.
Glasgow Caledonian University, (2009). Scottish mental health services: the experience of deaf and deafblind people.
Gurgel et al., (2014) Relationship of hearing loss and dementia: A prospective, population-based study. Otology &Neurotology 35(5): 775-81
Hunt et al, (2010). Older people who use BSL - preference for residential care provision in Wales.Manchester: University of Manchester.
Karpa et al, (2010). Associations between hearing impairment and mortality risk in older persons: the Blue Mountains Hearing Study. Annals of Epidemiology, 20 (6), 452-9.
Livingston et al, 2017, Dementia prevention, intervention, and care. The Lancet Commissions.http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)31363-6/fulltext
Lin, F.R. Metter, E. O'Brien, R.J. Resnick, S.M. Zonderman, AB, Ferrucci, L. Hearing Loss and Incident Dementia. ArchNeurol. (2011);68 (2):214-220.
Lin and Ferrucci 2012. Hearing loss and falls among older adults in the United States, Archives of Internal Medicine, 172 (4), 369-371.
Maharani et al, 2018. Longitudinal Relationship Between Hearing Aid Use and Cognitive Function in Older Americans. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society; Ray et al, 2018. Association of cognition and age-related hearing impairment in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. JAMA Otolaryngology- Head & Neck Surgery, 144 (10), 876-882.
Royal College of Psychiatrists (2017). Guidance to improve Deaf people's access to mental health services.
Saito et al, (2010). Hearing handicap predicts the development of depressive symptoms after three years in older community-dwelling Japanese. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 58 (1), 93-7;
Wilson et al, (2017). Global hearing health care: new findings and perspectives. The Lancet.