Every word counts

Statistics on deafness

Eleven million people in the UK are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing - that’s one in 6 of us. This is set to rise to 15.6 million by 2035 (1 in 6 people).*

Of these:

  • 40% of people over the age of 50 have a hearing loss
  • 70% of people over the age of 70 have age-related hearing loss
  • An estimated 24,000 people across the UK use a sign language as
    their main language
  • There are approximately 45,000 deaf children across the UK
     

Different types of deafness and preferred methods of communication

Deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people use different types of communication depending on their hearing loss and preferences. Here we explain the most commonly used terms:

Deaf
This can mean profound deafness, but may also be used to describe a less severe hearing loss. Deaf people may use British Sign Language (BSL), Sign Supported English (SSE), speech-to-text, lipreading, or a combination of these. Hearing aids may be of little benefit to someone who is profoundly deaf.

You may have seen the word ‘Deaf’ (note the capital ‘D’) being used. This usually refers to deaf people who use BSL as their first or preferred means of communication and who consider themselves part of the Deaf community. This is a community which sees itself as a linguistic minority rather than a group of people with a disability.

If you want your publicity materials to be more inclusive, the term “deaf” (note the lower case ‘d’) should be used as this can refer to people who are Deaf, deafened or severely hard of hearing.

Deafened
This is used to describe people who were born hearing and became severely or profoundly deaf as adults, often suddenly. Deafened people usually have good English skills and may use speech-to-text reporters, lipspeakers or electronic notetakers to aid communication. Many deafened people have cochlear implants – small, complex electronic devices that help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing.

Hard of hearing
This term refers to anyone with a mild to severe loss. It is usually used to describe people who have lost their hearing gradually as they have become older. Some hard of hearing people wear hearing aids and find lipreading helpful in certain situations. They may also find sound enhancement systems beneficial, such as loops and infrared.
 

* Action on Hearing Loss statistics

The Arts Council
The Arts Council
The Arts Council