Hearing and Other Sensory or Communication Disorders Workgroup

Objective Status

  • 0 Target met or exceeded
  • 0 Improving
  • 3 Little or no detectable change
  • 0 Getting worse
  • 9 Baseline only
  • 0 Developmental
  • 0 Research

Learn more about objective types

Hearing and Other Sensory or Communication Disorders Workgroup Objectives (12)

About the Workgroup

Approach and Rationale

Communication and sensory processes are important for health and well-being. The World Health Organization estimates that 466 million people have disabling hearing loss and that this number will nearly double by 2050.1 In the United States, hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition,2 and an estimated 1 in 6 people have a moderate-to-severe communication disorder.3 Problems with communication or balance can lead to social isolation, difficulty understanding medical advice, and limited educational and professional success.4,5,6,7 And problems with taste or smell can lead to poor nutrition and the inability to detect smoke, gas leaks, or spoiled foods.8,9

The objectives selected by the HOSCD Workgroup aim to ensure that all Americans benefit from scientific advances in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of communication disorders. Core objectives and targets selected by the workgroup align with federal priorities and aim to prevent these disorders and support early identification and treatment.

Understanding Hearing and Other Sensory or Communication Disorders

Many factors influence the numbers of Americans diagnosed with and treated for communication disorders, including:

  • A wide socioeconomic gap in overall health and access to care10
  • Failure to use needed hearing aids — common barriers are high cost and perceived stigma11
  • Unhealthy lifestyle choices — for example, tobacco use and overexposure to loud noise12,13,14,15 
  • An aging population, coupled with improving survival rates for medically fragile infants and people with severe injuries and diseases16,17,18,19
  • Genetics
  • Injury
  • Sensitivity to certain drugs or medications
  • Viral and bacterial infections

Conditions present at birth can also influence treatment and intervention options. Infants can now receive hearing aids, cochlear implants, and sign language instruction.20,21 All U.S. states now help ensure screening for newborn hearing loss, follow up, and enrollment in early intervention services.22

Emerging issues in Hearing and Other Sensory or Communication Disorders

Emerging issues in this field include:

  • Accommodation of the needs of a diverse and aging population
  • Improved accessibility to affordable hearing amplification
  • Lagging recognition of the impact of hearing loss on quality of life
  • Increases in combat-related blast exposure leading to a dramatic rise in traumatic brain injury, hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance disorders in military personnel
  • Reducing noise-induced hearing loss through increased use of hearing protection devices (ear plugs, ear muffs) and research into hair cell protection and regeneration (inner ear hair cells are key to our ability to hear)
  • Identifying the genetic components of many disorders
  • Improved understanding of co-occurring and related conditions — for example, diagnosing neurological disease through tests of olfactory (smell) function and better understanding of the relationships between hearing loss and diabetes23,24,25,26,27



World Health Organization. (2019). Deafness and Hearing Loss. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/deafness-and-hearing-loss


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Occupational Hearing Loss (OHL) Surveillance. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/ohl/


Association for Research in Otolaryngology. (2019). Burden of Ear, Nose and Throat – Voice, Speech and Language Disorders Based on United States Health Surveys, 2011-2016. 42nd Annual MidWinter Meeting [PDF file]. Retrieved from https://aro.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/2019-ARO-MWM-Abstracts-FINAL.pdf


Ward, B.K., Agrawal, Y., Hoffman, H.J., Carey, J.P., & Della Santina, C.C. (2013). Prevalence and impact of bilateral vestibular hypofunction: results from the 2008 US National Health Interview Survey. JAMA Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery, 139(8), 803-810. DOI: 10.1001/jamaoto.2013.3913


Li, C.M., et al. (2014). Hearing Impairment Associated with Depression in US Adults, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2010. JAMA Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery, 140(4), 293-301. DOI: 10.1001/jamaoto.2014.42


Ingram, M, et al. (2016). Addressing Hearing Health Care Disparities Among Older Adults in a US-Mexico Border Community. Frontiers in Public Health, 41(169), 1-8. DOI: 10.3389/fpubh.2016.00169


Li, C.M., Hoffman, H.J., Ward, B.K., Cohen, H.S., & Rine, R.M. (2016). Epidemiology of Dizziness and Balance Problems in Children in the United States: A Population-Based Study. The Journal of Pediatrics, 171, 240-247. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2015.12.002


Pence, T.S., Reiter, E.R., DiNardo, L.J., Costanzo, R.M. Risk Factors for Hazardous Events in Olfactory-Impaired Patients. JAMA Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery, 140(10), 951-955. DOI: 10.1001/jamaoto.2014.1675


Hoffman, H.J., Rawal, S., Li, C.M., & Duffy V.B. (2016). New Chemosensory Component in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES): First-Year Results for Measured Olfactory Dysfunction. Reviews in Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders, 17(2), 221-40. DOI: 10.1007/s11154-016-9364-1


Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. (2016). 2015 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report and 5th Anniversary Update on the National Quality Strategy. Retrieved from https://www.ahrq.gov/sites/default/files/wysiwyg/research/findings/nhqrdr/nhqdr15/2015nhqdr.pdf


National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2016). Hearing Health Care for Adults: Priorities for Improving Access and Affordability. Retrieved from https://www.nap.edu/catalog/23446/hearing-health-care-for-adults-priorities-for-improving-access-and


Agrawal, Y., Platz, E.A., & Niparko, J.K. (2009). Risk Factors for Hearing Loss in US Adults: Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999 to 2002. Otology and Neurotology, 30(2), 139-45. DOI: 10.1097/MAO.0b013e318192483c


Masterson, E.A., Themann, C.L., Luckhaupt, S.E., Li, J., & Calvert, G.M. (2016). Hearing Difficulty and Tinnitus Among U.S. Workers and Non-workers in 2007. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 59(4), 290-300. DOI: 10.1002/ajim.22565


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). It’s Loud Out There: Hearing Health Across the Lifespan. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/grand-rounds/pp/2017/20170620-hearing-health.html


Hoffman, H.J., Dobie, R.A., Losonczy, K.G., Themann, C.L., & Flamme, G.A. Declining Prevalence of Hearing Loss in US Adults Aged 20 to 69 Years. JAMA Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery, 143(3), 274-85. DOI: 10.1001/jamaoto.2016.3527.


Van Eyken, E., Van Camp, G., Van Laer, L. (2007). The Complexity of Age-Related Hearing Impairment: Contributing Environmental and Genetic Factors. Audiology and Neurootology, 12(6), 345-58. DOI: 10.1159/000106478


Dillon, C.F., Gu, Q., Hoffman, H.J., & Ko, C.W. (2010). Vison, Hearing, Balance, and Sensory Impairment in Americans Aged 70 Years and Older: United States, 1999-2006. NCHS Data Brief, 31, 1-8. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db31.pdf


National Institutes of Health. (2017). NIDCD Strategic Plan: FY 2017–2021. Retrieved from https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/about/strategic-plan/2017-2021


Hoffman, H.J., Dobie, R.A., Losonczy, K.G., Themann, C.L., & Flamme, G.A. (2019). Kids Nowadays Hear Better Than We Did: Declining Prevalence of Hearing Loss in US Youth, 1966–2010. The Laryngoscope, 129(8), 1922-39. DOI: 10.1002/lary.27419


Sininger, Y.S., et al. (2009). Newborn Hearing Screening Speeds Diagnosis and Access to Intervention by 20 to 25 months. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, 20(1), 49-57. DOI: 10.3766/jaaa.20.1.5


Williams, T.R., Alam, S., & Gaffney, M. (2015). Progress in Identifying Infants with Hearing Loss―United States, 2006–2012. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 64(13), 351-356. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6413a4.htm


Chung, W., et al. (2017). Reporting Newborn Audiologic Results to State EHDI Programs. Ear and Hearing, 38(5), 638-642. DOI: 10.1097/AUD.0000000000000443


Schubert, C.R., et al. (2008). Olfaction and the 5-year Incidence of Cognitive Impairment in an Epidemiological Study of Older Adults. Journal of American Geriatrics Society, 56(8), 1517-1521. DOI: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2008.01826.x


Tarakad, A., & Jankovic, J. (2017). Anosmia and Ageusia in Parkinson’s Disease. International Review of Neurobiology, 133, 541-556. DOI: 10.1016/bs.irn.2017.05.028


Doty, R.L., & Hawkes, C.H. (2019). Chemosensory Dysfunction in Neurodegenerative Diseases. Handbook of Clinical Neurology, 164, 325-360. DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-444-63855-7.00020-4


Bainbridge, K.E., Hoffman, H.J., & Cowie, C.C. (2008). Diabetes and Hearing Impairment in the United States: Audiometric Evidence from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999 to 2004. Annals of Internal Medicine, 149(1), 1-10. DOI: 10.7326/0003-4819-149-1-200807010-00231


Baiduc, R.R., & Helzner, E.P. (2019). Epidemiology of Diabetes and Hearing Loss. Seminars in Hearing, 40(4), 281-291. DOI: 10.1055/s-0039-1697643