Imagine that there is a disability that affects 48 million Americans (1): the third-most common chronic health condition in the U.S., more prevalent than diabetes or cancer (2).

Imagine that the condition had a massive economic impact as well: estimates of the economic cost of lost productivity varied from $1.8 to $194 billion, and direct medical costs ranged from $3.3 to $12.8 billion. (3)

And yet, imagine that the condition is constantly downplayed, both by medical research and society in general. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is the largest public funder of health research, doesn’t even list the condition as one it funds — despite that it causes great disease burden, ranking 10th in the US among all conditions as a contributor to Disability Adjusted Life Years (a widely-used measure of disease burden), according to the World Health Organization (WHO). (4)

How could this lack of funding for better understanding and treatments be possible when the country is losing billions of dollars in productivity to it?

Imaging that even a mild form of the condition — which many people incorrectly saw as an inevitable part of aging — could cause a child to miss as much of 50% of a classroom discussion. (1) For those with more severe forms of the condition, the outcomes could be much worse.

Despite this, imagine that the cost of treating the condition was mostly covered by the individual in the U.S., not by insurance, (5) only further emphasizing the attitude that it was just the individual’s problem to deal with — despite all the obvious evidence to the contrary.

This condition is real, and it’s hearing loss.


  1. Hearing Loss Association of America, “Hearing Loss Facts and Statistics.”
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Hearing Impairment Among Noise-Exposed Workers — United States, 2003–2012.”
  3. JAMA Otolayngology-Head & Neck Surgery, “The Economic Impact of Adult Hearing Loss
    A Systematic Review.”
  4. New York University, “NYU Researcher: National Institutes of Health’s Lack of Reporting on Hearing Loss Research Spending Runs Counter to Its Stated Goals.”
  5. The Lancet. “Hearing loss: an important global health concern.”

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