Those who are deaf or hard of hearing may have a better quality of life than in the past, thanks to legal and technological advances, such as anti-discrimination policies as well as improved hearing aids. Many challenges often still exist, however, when it comes to finding work, affording medical expenses, saving money

and more.

Various resources exist to provide financial, medical and educational assistance to the hard of hearing, from state and federal government agencies to nonprofit organizations. These can help both adults and children get an education, pursue a meaningful career and obtain the hearing-assistive devices they need.

Key statistics about the hard of hearing

Some 48 million people in the U.S. have some degree of hearing loss, the Hearing Loss Association of America reports. And the number with moderate or greater hearing loss is expected to double by 2060, according to Johns Hopkins researchers. Based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and other government and advocacy organizations, key statistics include:

  • Of people in the U.S. with a disability, 5.9 percent are deaf or have significant difficulty with hearing.
  • About 55 percent of deaf people have additional disabilities.
  • Two to 3 of every 1,000 children in the U.S. are born with detectable levels of hearing loss.
  • The states with the highest populations of hearing disabled people are West Virginia (6.2 percent), Maine (5 percent), New Mexico (5 percent), Oklahoma (4.9 percent) and Arkansas (4.8 percent).
  • Some 50 million people in the U.S. experience a constant ringing in the ears, called tinnitus.
  • About 14 percent of deaf people receive Social Security Disability Insurance, compared to 24 percent of people with a mobility or visual disability.
  • The price of a hearing aid runs $1,000-$4,000.
  • Only five states – Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island — require that health-care plans pay for hearing aids for adults and children.
  • Only 18 percent of deaf individuals have a Bachelor’s degree, compared with 33 percent of those who aren’t hard of hearing.
  • Just slightly more than half of deaf people ages 25 to 64 are employed, compared with three-quarters of those who can hear, according to a 2019 report from the National Deaf Center.

Job discrimination

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, prohibits discrimination based on disability in the workplace as well as in the areas of transportation and public accommodations. When it comes to employment, this civil rights law applies to both employees and job seekers.

The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who are hard of hearing, which can include a sign language interpreter or assistive technology such as a telephone headset, a captioned telephone or special computer software. Reasonable accommodations can also include altering an employee’s nonessential job duties, as needed.

Employees can file an ADA claim if they feel an employer has discriminated against them based on a disability with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or a state or local agency.

Benefits available to the hard of hearing

Various state and national programs exist to provide those who are hard of hearing with financial, medical and educational assistance.

Social Security Disability Insurance

Hard-of-hearing individuals who have worked for a set minimum number of years and paid Social Security taxes may qualify for federally funded Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). These benefits are paid to individuals who are unable to work due to a disabling condition.

Supplemental Security Income

Disabled or elderly individuals who have limited income and resources may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is also administered by the Social Security Administration. The program provides monthly payments to cover things such as food, clothing and housing.

State agencies

The deaf and hard of hearing can also turn to state agencies for assistance with receiving hearing aids, assistive technology and rehabilitation services.

Various state agencies provide assistance to the deaf and hard of hearing, including interpreting services, advocacy, and job placement and development.


In some states, Medicaid covers hearing services for low-income children and adults such as hearing aids, cochlear implants and hearing exams. Eligibility and coverage vary among states.

Department of Veterans Affairs

Those enrolled in healthcare with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) may qualify for hearing aid batteries and accessories that have been prescribed by a VA audiologist.

Military Audiology Association

The Retiree Assistive Listening Devices program is provided by the Military Audiology Association to provide assistive listening devices at a discount to military service members and their families.

Telephone Equipment Distribution Program Association

Through state-run Telephone Equipment Distribution Programs, qualified individuals can receive free or low-cost telephone equipment with assistive technology to improve phone access.

Education assistance for deaf children

Programs for children who are deaf or hard of hearing can help ensure they receive a proper education, hearing assistive technology and training in American Sign Language.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was created to ensure all individuals have access to a free public education tailored to their needs. The act can enable children to receive hearing assistive technology, such as hearing aids, for free if their Individualized Education Program (IEP) specifies such technology is needed.

American Society for Deaf Children

The goal of the American Society for Deaf Children (ASDC) is to ensure every deaf child can learn American Sign Language (ASL). The ASDC also provides resources for parents to learn ASL to communicate with their kids. Its offerings also include posters featuring the ASL alphabet and numbers, as well as online ASL classes.

National Association of the Deaf

One of the missions of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is to promote and preserve ASL as an educational tool. The organization also provides resources for deaf children such as a youth leadership camp and mock interview materials for high school students.

Bottom line

Challenges faced by those who are deaf or hard of hearing can include financial struggles, which may be caused by job discrimination and extraordinary medical costs. Strides have been made in recent decades, however, when it comes to legislation as well as technology, and financial support is available through the government and other organizations to help individuals lead full and productive lives.