Hearing loss affects access to spoken language, which can affect cognition and development, and can negatively affect social well-being. We present updated estimates from the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study on the prevalence of hearing loss in 2019, as well as the condition's associated disability.
We did systematic reviews of population-representative surveys on hearing loss prevalence from 1990 to 2019. We fitted nested meta-regression models for severity-specific prevalence, accounting for hearing aid coverage, cause, and the presence of tinnitus. We also forecasted the prevalence of hearing loss until 2050.
An estimated 1·57 billion (95% uncertainty interval 1·51–1·64) people globally had hearing loss in 2019, accounting for one in five people (20·3% [19·5–21·1]). Of these, 403·3 million (357·3–449·5) people had hearing loss that was moderate or higher in severity after adjusting for hearing aid use, and 430·4 million (381·7–479·6) without adjustment. The largest number of people with moderate-to-complete hearing loss resided in the Western Pacific region (127·1 million people [112·3–142·6]). Of all people with a hearing impairment, 62·1% (60·2–63·9) were older than 50 years. The Healthcare Access and Quality (HAQ) Index explained 65·8% of the variation in national age-standardised rates of years lived with disability, because countries with a low HAQ Index had higher rates of years lived with disability. By 2050, a projected 2·45 billion (2·35–2·56) people will have hearing loss, a 56·1% (47·3–65·2) increase from 2019, despite stable age-standardised prevalence.
As populations age, the number of people with hearing loss will increase. Interventions such as childhood screening, hearing aids, effective management of otitis media and meningitis, and cochlear implants have the potential to ameliorate this burden. Because the burden of moderate-to-complete hearing loss is concentrated in countries with low health-care quality and access, stronger health-care provision mechanisms are needed to reduce the burden of unaddressed hearing loss in these settings.
GBD 2019 Hearing Loss Collaborators. Hearing loss prevalence and years lived with disability, 1990–2019: findings from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. The Lancet. 11 March 2021. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(21)00516-X.