Skip all navigation Skip to page navigation

DHHS Home | A-Z Site Map | Get Updates | Divisions | About Us | Contacts | En Español

NC Department of Health and Human Services Division of Services for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing

How Many Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Deaf-Blind People Are There In North Carolina?


There is a surprisingly large number of adults with hearing loss in North Carolina and the number is growing. Adults with hearing loss include people who are deaf, hard of hearing, and deaf-blind. They range from individuals who are born profoundly deaf and use American Sign Language (ASL) as their primary means of communication to those who started to lose their hearing as older adults and could benefit from hearing aids or other forms of amplification. Then there are those who are deaf-blind, ranging from being both profoundly deaf and fully blind to having mild hearing and vision loss.

For various reasons, it is not possible to obtain a precise count of adults with hearing loss. However, it is possible to develop estimates. The Division of Services for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing (DSDHH) has analyzed data from a variety of sources and developed estimates, including charts and graphs, designed to give one a sense of the prevalence of hearing loss. In addition, there are explanations for terminology and methodology and sources of data.

If you have any additional questions call or contact Carolyn Edmonds at (919) 874-2257 or email

Quick Facts at a Glance

  • In 2010, 16.2% (1,182,610) adults in North Carolina had a hearing loss
  • By 2030, the number of adults in North Carolina with a hearing loss will increase by 41% - to 1,669,518
  • Hearing loss is the 3rd most prevalent, but treatable, disabling condition among seniors following arthritisand high blood pressure

Charts and Graphs


The charts and graphs show the estimated prevalence of hearing loss (which includes all types of hearing loss - deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind) among adults in 2010 and in the future in North Carolina. The prevalence of hearing loss represents the numbers and/or percentages of individuals with hearing loss during the year. "Prevalence" includes those who are newly diagnosed with hearing loss during the year as well as those who were previously diagnosed with hearing loss. "Prevalence" is a more accurate reflection of hearing loss than "incidence" which is typically used to measure the rate of occurrence of new cases/conditions.

Methodology and Sources of Data

Due to the wide variations in the type, degree, onset and etiology of hearing loss, it is difficult to obtain hard and fast data on the prevalence of hearing loss. Data gathering tools used to determine hearing loss populations only provide a statistical estimate, not an exact population total. Numerous projections of hearing loss using different methods abound. The Center for Disease Control's National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) is one of the leading sources of health statistical information gathering. The NHIS is conducted annually and is the most current source of hearing loss data available. Because local and state specific data on hearing loss do not exist, the reported percentages of hearing loss nationally by age group from the CDC's National Health Information Survey were used as proxy measures for hearing loss in NC and among several states (see CDC/National Center for Health Statistics, NHIS Series 10 Reports, from 2007 through 2010).

The NHIS results are used to create data sets based on the self-reporting of hearing loss. It must be noted that "denial" or the non-acceptance of hearing loss and "vanity" due to the stigma associated with hearing loss are two major reasons cited for a person not to seek treatment for his/her hearing loss. Because hearing loss is often gradual in most individuals, a false sense of normalcy develops thereby making hearing loss an "invisible" disability. Without the realization of hearing loss in the person's life, misconceptions on abilities and self-perceptions will cause inaccurate reporting of such leading to further misconstrued statistical information. With that said, the NHIS results are still the best measure of hearing loss available.

To create hearing loss projections, the NHIS percentages were applied to several population data sets. For NC statewide and county data, the NHIS percentages were applied to the 2010 and 2030 NC Certified Population Estimates from the State Data Center, NC Office of State Budget and Management. For state to state comparisons, the NHIS percentages were applied to the 2010 census data.

For those who are interested in learning more about how the estimates were constructed, read additional detail on the National Estimates of Hearing Loss, the Population Data Sets, and the Methodology for estimating hearing loss in North Carolina. Ready NC Connect NC