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Living With Hearing Loss: One Woman's Story

Hearing loss can affect a child's ability to develop communication, language, and social skills. The earlier children with hearing loss start getting services, the more likely they are to reach their full potential. If you are a parent and you suspect your child has hearing loss, trust your instincts and speak with your child's doctor.

Krista's Story

Photo: KristaWhen I was 17 years old, I lost all of my hearing in one ear. I learned that I had a genetic syndrome that caused tumors to grow on my hearing nerves. And I learned that someday I would become completely deaf in the other ear. I was devastated and frightened. I grew up with full hearing and didn't know anyone who was deaf. I couldn't imagine the world without sound. A few years later, a friend told me about a remarkable new technology called an alpha pager, a pager that could receive a message sent via a live operator. I was excited to think that someday this technology could help me.

Soon my world got quieter, but I didn't really notice because it happened so slowly. After much urging from my frustrated family, friends, and coworkers, I got my first hearing aid. I can remember turning my hearing aid on for the first time and immediately hearing a soft, low-pitched noise. My eyes scanned the room looking for the source. My audiologist smiled and said, "That's the air conditioner." I went for my usual run that evening and was surprised to hear the gravel crunch beneath my feet and the croak of a bullfrog. I had forgotten that frogs make noise!

But the sounds around me continued to soften. I began using captioning on TV only a year after a federal law was enacted requiring most new television sets to include a closed captioning feature. And I became unable to use the telephone only a few years after emailing became the norm.

I'm completely deaf now. In addition to closed captions and email, I rely on technologies such as text messaging, IM (instant messaging), and CART (communication access realtime translation). Recent changes in technology, as well as other recent positive changes such as the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, have provided opportunities for people with disabilities that were not available 20 years ago. I sometimes think back to the excitement I felt when I learned that I might someday use an alpha pager, and I smile. - Krista

Finding Out How Many Children Have Hearing Loss

Photo: A childBy studying the number of children diagnosed with hearing loss over time, we can find out if the number is rising, dropping, or staying the same. We can compare the number of children with hearing loss in different groups of people. This information can help us look for causes of hearing loss and help communities plan for services.

We do not know exactly how many children have hearing loss. CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities data have shown that approximately 1 to 3 per 1,000 children have hearing loss. Other studies have shown rates from 2 to 5 per 1,000 children. Data chart of prevalence studies »

Metropolitan Atlanta Developmental Disabilities Surveillance Program (MADDSP)

CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities tracks the number of eight year old children in a five-county area in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia who have moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears. For this project, we define moderate to profound hearing loss as a 40 dB or greater loss in the better ear, without the use of hearing aids. In 2006, the prevalence was an estimated 1.3 per 1,000, or about 1 in 770, 8-year-olds.

  • Approximately 60% of children with a hearing loss of 40 decibels or more unaided in the better ear had a sensorineural loss.
  • Nearly 40% of children with hearing loss also had one or more other developmental disabilities tracked by MADDSP including intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, vision impairment or autism spectrum disorder.

National Surveys

CDC conducts two nationally representative surveys that provide data on health conditions in U.S. children: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III and the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).

  • In the 1988-1994 NHANES III surveys, 14.9% of children 6-19 years of age in the United States were reported to have low-frequency or high-frequency hearing loss of at least 16-dB hearing level in one or both ears. [Read summary]
  • In the 1997-2008 NHIS surveys, parents reported that that 4.5 per 1,000 children ages 3 through 17 in the United States were deaf or had a lot of trouble hearing without a hearing aid. [Read article]

Screening, Diagnosis, and Intervention Services

Hearing loss can affect a child's ability to develop speech, language, and social skills. The earlier children with hearing loss start getting services, the more likely they are to reach their full potential.

Hearing Screening and Follow-Up Survey

The Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Program works with states to conduct the Hearing Screening and Follow-Up Survey. This survey helps us to learn how many infants are screened for, diagnosed with, and receiving intervention services for hearing loss; the type and severity of hearing loss; and demographic data on infants with hearing loss.

This information is important in order to monitor the impact of efforts to promote infant hearing screening, timely follow-up evaluations, and early intervention services.

Based on data from the year 2009 survey:

  • Over 97% of newborns in the U.S. were screened for hearing loss
  • 1.4 per 1,000 babies screened for hearing loss were diagnosed with hearing loss
  • 68% of infants with a documented diagnosis were diagnosed before 3 months of age
  • 68% of those with hearing loss were enrolled in early intervention services

More survey data and information

Learning More about Hearing Loss

CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities funds a range of studies to learn more about the extent and nature of hearing loss, the experience of individuals and families affected by hearing issues, and ways of improving services to those families.

This research aims to do the following:

  • Describe the nature of hearing loss and its effect on families
  • Improve structure and quality control for programs monitoring the status of children with hearing loss
  • Remove barriers to obtaining effective services

Read about hearing loss studies

More Information

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  • Page last reviewed: February 17, 2012
  • Page last updated: February 17, 2012 The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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