About the Project

SoundCheck is a research and communications project to identify the extent of hearing loss in the United States by state and county. Hearing loss is extremely common, especially among adults, and more attention is needed on prevention and screening.

Rates of hearing loss increase exponentially starting at age 35 and 1 in 11 people aged 35-64 have bilateral hearing loss, a rate that increases to 1 in 3 among people ages 65-74. Almost 3 out of 4 people ages 75 and older have some form of bilateral hearing loss. Untreated hearing loss is a risk factor for depression, falls, and even dementia. Regular screenings are essential and are important for physical and mental wellbeing. Hearing screening can detect hearing loss in its early stages, and hearing protection can prevent hearing loss from getting worse.

This project was led by NORC at the University of Chicago in partnership with Burness, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), the National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management (NCHAM), and the Johns Hopkins Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health.

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Frequently Asked Questions

About the map
The map presents estimates of bilateral hearing loss, that is hearing loss in both ears, at one of three levels; a) Mild hearing loss, defined as the inability to hear a 4-frequency pure-tone-average threshold signal at or lower than 25dB in the better hearing ear, but able to hear the signal greater than 25 dB. This level of hearing loss requires a person to change the way they listen in order to hear clearly; b) Moderate or worse hearing loss, defined as the inability to hear a 4-frequency pure-tone-average threshold signal at or less than 40 dB in the better hearing ear. At this level of hearing loss and above it is difficult to comprehend spoken language; and c) Any hearing loss defined as everyone with mild, moderate or worse hearing loss. This is the total amount of bilateral hearing loss estimated by the project. It’s important to remember, that the map only presents estimates of mild, moderate or worse, bilateral hearing loss, or the amount of those two categories added together.  Many more people have hearing loss in only one ear, or have slight bilateral hearing loss below the thresholds we used for this project.
We found that hearing loss is more prevalent in rural areas than in urban ones.  For example, after adjusting for differences in age, race and ethnicity, and sex between counties, the most rural counties had a prevalence of any hearing loss that was almost twice that of the most urban counties.  The reasons why hearing loss is more common in rural areas than urban ones is unknown and deserves additional study.  A possible explanation could be a greater risk of noise exposure from firearms, farming and forestry equipment, and recreational vehicles.  People can protect themselves from hearing loss by wearing appropriate hearing protection. 
The risk of hearing loss increases exponentially with age. Fewer than 1 in 500 Americans younger than age 18 have bilateral hearing loss, as compared to 1 in 140 people ages 18 to 34, 1 in 11 people ages 35 to 64, 1 in 3 people ages 65 to 74, and almost 3 out of every 4 people ages 75 and older. Age is the most important risk factor for hearing loss and paying attention to your hearing as you age is an important step in managing your health. Among people of the same age, non-Hispanic Whites are at greater risk for hearing loss than people of other race and ethnicity groups.  Men are also at higher risk of hearing loss than women.
This tool allows researchers, policymakers, journalists, and the general public to view small area estimates of hearing loss within the United States, by county, state and population demographics. Insights derived from this tool can be used to inform our understanding of hearing in the U.S. to guide resources, policy decisions, and interventions. Instructions for using the map can be found on the map page under the link "Using the Map".
You can download the project's estimates using the "Download the Data" tab at the top right of this Map Page.
We created these estimates using a statistical technique called small area estimation and different data sources.  The most important data come from a nationally representative survey, The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), that collected audiometry data from 2001-2012, and 2015-2018. This survey used examination equipment to directly measure hearing loss among survey participants.  The small area estimation methodology combined these nationally representative data with data sources that are not as precise in measuring hearing loss, but capture variations in all hearing loss at the county level.  For more information on how the estimates were created, please see our project methodology page.
We estimated a total of 37.9 million people with any mild, moderate, or worse bilateral hearing loss in the United States in 2019.  Of these people, 24.9 million had mild hearing loss and 13.0 million had moderate or worse bilateral hearing loss.  About 1 in 9 Americans of all ages had any bilateral hearing loss, but the risk of hearing loss was much greater among older people than younger people.  For example, we estimated that fewer than 1 in 500 Americans younger than age 18 had bilateral hearing loss as compared to nearly 3 out of every 4 Americans ages 75 and older. Click here to see a full summary of our national estimates.
Hearing loss facts
Some degree of hearing loss over the course of a lifetime is very common, but fortunately many forms of hearing loss, especially hearing loss related to noise exposure, can be prevented or delayed. This site provides information to help you understand how to prevent hearing loss and how to screen for and monitor hearing loss like any other potential health problem.
Untreated hearing loss can increase a person’s chances for falls and other accidents; loneliness; depression; fatigue, tension, and stress; and memory and learning impairments.
Hearing loss is common in the United States with an estimated 37.9 million people with some form of mild, moderate or worse hearing loss.  Your personal risk of developing hearing loss increases as you age.  Fortunately there are many things you can do to protect yourself from hearing loss, or detect and treat hearing loss if it has already occurred.

Project Support

This project is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $971,703 with 100 percent funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by CDC/HHS, or the U.S. Government.