hearing loss across the nation

Hearing Loss Across the Nation: State Rankings

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately 37.5 million American adults report some degree of hearing loss. This equates to 15% of the adult population or roughly 1 in 6 people. Shockingly, the actual number may be even higher, given that hearing loss often goes undiagnosed.

The Special Reports team at HearingResearch.org analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the 2023 Annual Disability Statistics Collection to determine which U.S. states have the highest percentage of people living with serious hearing loss. A person with serious hearing loss, as defined by the 2023 Annual Disability Statistics Collection, refers to any individual who indicated “yes” on the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent American Community Survey when asked if they were “deaf or … [had] serious difficulty hearing.”

Hearing Loss Across the Nation: State Rankings

West Virginia tops the list as the state with the largest population of individuals with serious hearing loss by percentage. In this state, 5.7% of the population lives with serious hearing loss (defined as an individual who indicated “yes” on the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent American Community Survey when asked if they were “deaf or…[had] serious difficulty hearing.” This number is 58% higher than the 3.6% average from state to state.

All of the states in the above ranking, in fact, have a significantly higher than average population of individuals with serious hearing loss. Oklahoma, Montana, Wyoming, and New Mexico round out the top 5 in terms of states with a hearing loss population that’s north of 5% of the total state population.

In terms of actual numbers, it’s Kentucky, however, that comes out on top. In this state, nearly a quarter of a million individuals live with serious hearing loss. Oklahoma comes in second with a number just north of 200,000.

The Team also looked at hearing loss population sizes by the numbers. In this ranking, California takes the lead with over 1.1 million individuals with serious hearing loss living in the state. This is more than four times the national average of approximately 228,000 from state to state. Of course, with California being the most populous state in the nation, this number is not surprising.

Texas, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania round out the top 5. Texas and Florida in particular inch close to the million mark, while New York and Pennsylvania hover around the half-million point.

The Impact and Implications of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss has profound implications for the affected individual and society at large. It impacts not just the ability to perceive sound but also communication, emotional well-being, social engagement, and overall quality of life. Many individuals with hearing loss experience social isolation, depression, and cognitive decline. Moreover, it can also influence employment status and economic productivity, with the potential to generate significant societal costs.

The Factors Contributing to the Prevalence of Hearing Loss

Several factors contribute to the prevalence of hearing loss in the U.S.

Age is one significant risk factor. According to the NIDCD, approximately 1 in 3 people in the U.S. between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.

Noise exposure, both occupational and recreational, also plays a large role. Regular exposure to loud noise can significantly harm hearing health over time. In today’s age of ubiquitous personal audio devices and noisy environments, more young people are at risk than ever before.

Genetic factors, certain medical conditions like otosclerosis or Meniere’s disease, and ototoxic medications can also lead to hearing loss. Moreover, disparities in access to health care and socioeconomic status can affect the incidence and management of hearing loss across different population groups.

The Steps Towards Improving Hearing Health

Addressing hearing loss in the U.S. requires concerted efforts on several fronts. Raising public awareness about the importance of hearing health, early detection, and the potential hazards of noise exposure is crucial. This includes educating people about using hearing protection in noisy environments and setting safe volume levels on personal audio devices.

On the medical front, advances in technology have made significant strides in improving the outcomes for people with hearing loss. Today’s hearing aids are smaller, more efficient, and capable of better sound quality than ever before. Moreover, cochlear implants and bone-anchored hearing systems provide options for individuals who cannot benefit from conventional hearing aids.

Finally, access to affordable and comprehensive hearing health care is essential. This includes not only devices but also audiological services for accurate diagnosis, fitting, and follow-up care. Efforts are ongoing at the policy level to improve access to these services and bring down the costs of hearing aids.


Hearing loss is a significant health concern in the United States, affecting millions and generating substantial societal costs. Increased awareness, advancements in medical technology, and improved access to care are all crucial steps towards addressing this pervasive issue. While challenges remain, the steps taken towards improving hearing health in the U.S. provide hope for those affected by hearing loss and the society at large. As we continue these efforts, the goal remains clear: to improve the quality of life for those living with hearing loss and to prevent the condition where possible.