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Not 12 million, but 18 million: why the number of people classed as having hearing loss in the UK has increased 

An illustration of many people standing in rows, with wording that says: "18 million people - that's a lot, right?"

For a number of years, we at RNID have been talking about the 12 million people in the UK who are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus. From this week, you will see that statistic change as we start to talk about the 18 million.  

We want to explain why that number has changed. 

Reflecting real lived experience of hearing loss and deafness

First things first: 6 million more people haven’t suddenly developed hearing loss overnight. They have always been here.  

What has happened is that two of the most highly respected academics in hearing sciences – Prof. Michael Akeroyd from the University of Nottingham and Prof. Kevin Munro, NIHR Senior Investigator at the University of Manchester – have just had a new paper published in the International Journal of Audiology.

In this paper they have re-evaluated the existing prevalence data and brought in some changes to how we calculate the overall total of people who have hearing loss. 

How we now calculate the number of people with hearing loss 

So, what about this calculation has changed? Firstly, it now uses population data from the 2021-22 census instead of the 2011 census (which was used to calculate our previous statistic of 12 million people). Secondly, it includes people with lower levels of hearing loss. Finally, it now also counts people with hearing loss in one ear, who were not included before.  

Including people with any degree of hearing loss, whether in one ear or both, means we are now accurately capturing the true total number of adults with hearing loss in the UK.  

RNID welcomes this updated view of our communities

At RNID we welcome this recalibration – it reflects and includes the real lived experience of the 18 million people in the UK who have different, diverse experiences of hearing loss and deafness. We hope it will encourage more people to realise just how common hearing loss is, and recognise that we are here to offer support and information for everyone touched by it. 

Kevin Munro, NIHR Senior Investigator at the University of Manchester, said:

These data more accurately reflect the number of adults in the UK who have hearing loss that will cause listening difficulty, especially in background noise. Maintaining the hearing health of adults is a strong social responsibility.”  

Illustration of a man wearing headphones and holding a mobile phone

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