Data and Statistics About Hearing Loss in Children

What to know

  • Each year, CDC sends the Hearing Screening & Follow-up Survey to state and territorial Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) programs to request information on infant hearing screening, diagnostic evaluation, and enrollment in early intervention services. The survey helps to measure progress toward identifying infants with permanent hearing loss across the United States.
  • Data are also available on topics related to the causes, risk factors, and characteristics of children with hearing loss, transition into adulthood, and economic cost.
child sitting on ground smiling next to his dad


Based on data collected by CDC from states and territories for year 2020,

  • More than 98% of U.S. newborns were screened for hearing loss.
  • More than 6,000 U.S. infants born in 2020 were identified with a permanent hearing loss.
  • The prevalence of hearing loss in 2020 was 1.8 per 1,000 babies screened for hearing loss.
  • Some infants needing additional testing or early intervention did not receive these important follow-up services.

Additional studies have shown a range of estimates for the number of children identified with hearing loss.

National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III)

Prevalence rate: 15.2% of children and adolescents (12-19 years of age).

NHANES is a national population-based, cross-sectional survey with an in-person interview and audiometric testing at 0.5 to 8 kilohertz.

Type/degree of hearing loss: Low- or high-frequency hearing loss of at least 16-decibel hearing level in one or both ears.

National Health Interview Survey (NHIS)

Prevalence rate: 0.6% of children (3-17 years of age).

NHIS includes parent-reported hearing loss based on the question, "Which statement best describes the child's hearing without a hearing aid: good, a little trouble, a lot of trouble, or deaf?"

Type/degree of hearing loss: Moderate to profound hearing loss

Hearing Screening and Follow-up Survey (HSFS)

Prevalence rate: 1.8 per 1,000 infants screened.

HSFS includes only infants documented as being screened for hearing loss. Does not reflect cases of hearing loss that were identified but never reported to the state or territorial EHDI program.

Type/degree of hearing loss: N/A

Population-based studies in Europe and North America have identified a consistent prevalence of approximately 0.1% of children having a hearing loss of more than 40 decibels (dB) through review of health or education records, or both. Other international studies using different methods or criteria (such as screenings, questionnaires, and less severe decibel thresholds) have reported higher estimates. (Data table [PDF – 75 KB]).

Causes, risk factors, and characteristics

  • Genes are responsible for hearing loss among 50% to 60% of children with hearing loss. [Read article]
  • About 20% of babies with genetic hearing loss have a "syndrome" (for example, Down syndrome or Usher syndrome).
  • Infections during pregnancy in the mother, other environmental causes, and complications after birth are responsible for hearing loss among almost 30% of babies with hearing loss. [Read article]
  • Congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection during pregnancy is a preventable risk factor for hearing loss among children. [Read summary]
  • 14% of those exposed to CMV during pregnancy develop sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) of some type.
  • About 3% to 5% of those exposed to CMV during pregnancy develop bilateral moderate-to-profound SNHL.
  • A 2005 HealthStyles survey by CDC found that only 14% of female respondents had heard of CMV. [Read summary]
  • About one in every four children with hearing loss also is born weighing less than 2,500 grams (about 5 1/2 pounds). [Read summary]

Transition into adulthood

A CDC study that followed school-aged children identified with hearing loss into young adulthood (21 through 25 years of age) found that:

  • About 40% of young adults with hearing loss identified during childhood reported experiencing at least one limitation in daily functioning. [Read summary]
  • About 71% of young adults with hearing loss without other related conditions (such as intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, or vision loss) were employed. [Read summary]

Economic cost

  • During the 1999 – 2000 school year, the total cost in the United States for special education programs for children who were deaf or hard of hearing was $652 million, or $11,006 per child. [Read report]
  • The lifetime educational cost (year 2007 value) of hearing loss (more than 40 dB permanent loss without other disabilities) has been estimated at $115,600 per child. [Read article]
  • It is expected that the lifetime costs for all people with hearing loss who were born in 2000 will total $2.1 billion (in 2003 dollars). [Read article]
  • Direct medical costs, such as doctor visits, prescription drugs, and inpatient hospital stays, will make up 6% of these costs.
  • Direct nonmedical expenses, such as home modifications and special education, will make up 30% of these costs.
  • Indirect costs, which include the value of lost wages when a person cannot work or is limited in the amount or type of work he or she can do, will make up 63% of the costs. Note: These estimates do not include other expenses, such as hospital outpatient visits, sign language interpreters, and family out-of-pocket expenses. The actual economic costs of hearing loss, therefore, will be even higher than what is reported here.