How many persons are deaf or hard of hearing in Massachusetts?
To date, there are no definite statistics available on the exact number of deaf or hard of hearing individuals in the state. The information given by the Commission is an estimate, and should be used as such. In general the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 8.6 percent of United States population 3 years and older (which varies widely by age) were reported to have hearing problems. This is a national average, but the figure can be applied, with reservation, to the Massachusetts population.

Massachusetts
Population 2000
3 years and older 1

Estimated # of deaf/
hard of hearing people

Percent of Population 2

6,349,097

546,022

8.6%

Of the estimated 546,022 persons with hearing loss in the state of Massachusetts, how many are considered to be deaf?
There is no precise legal measure of deafness, as there is for blindness, so the word "deaf "can have a variety of meanings. The table below offers statistics based on three possible descriptions. The estimates below is derived from Gallaudet University Center for Assessment and Demographic Study which is based on information from the National Center for Health Statistics. 3 Information is also based on Massachusetts population 3 years and older from the 2000 census. 1 If deafness is described as the "inability to hear and understand any speech," there are approximately 13,300 deaf persons in Massachusetts. Again, the percentage applied to this figure is a national average, but the figure can be applied, with reservation, to the Massachusetts population.

DescriptionEstimated number% of Population

Deaf, both ears

11,428

.18%

Cannot hear and understand any speech

14,603

.23%

At best, can hear and understand words shouted in the better ear

31,111

.49%

Are local estimates of the deaf and hard of hearing population available?
There are no exact figures available for individual towns and cities. The commission offers the following formula as one method of estimating the incidence of deafness in a specific town:

Population of town (3 years and older) multiplied by 8.6% = estimated deaf & hard of hearing population of town (3 years and older)

Reasons to use these estimates with reservation

As mentioned earlier, there are several reasons to use these estimates with reservation. First, the figure of 8.6% is the national average. It is applied to the population of Massachusetts with this understanding. Second, it cannot apply to every town and city in Massachusetts. Towns with smaller populations may have fewer deaf or hard of hard of hearing individuals than the formula suggests. Similarly, large cities will tend to have greater deaf and hard of hearing populations than would be expected using the 8.6% figure.

Cultural and sociological factors influence the size of the Deaf population in any given place. Historically, Deaf people have lived in places where they could enjoy the physical closeness of other Deaf individuals. As they did not have access to telephones until the advent of the TTY (teletype communication device) in the late 1960's, Deaf people relied on Deaf clubs and social activities for interaction and entertainment. Living in a city allowed easy transportation, providing access to friends and social events. In spite of technological advances which allow long-distance communication, the tendency to live in major cities remains a characteristic of the Deaf community. Personal interaction is still valued highly by Deaf individuals.

There are other explanations for the concentration of Deaf people in metropolitan areas. In large cities, services for deaf and hard of hearing people are more readily available. Additionally, there are more opportunities to see performances and events sign language interpreted for the deaf community in larger cities.
 


Sources:
1. Population information from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Data from the 2000 Census, issued March 2001.
2. National percentage from the National Center for Health Statistics, Data from the National Health Interview Survey, Series 10, Number 188, Table 1, 1994.
3. National Center for Health Statistics, Data from the National Health Interview Survey, Series 10, Number 188, Tables 1,B,C, 1994.

 


This information is provided by the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.