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Worldwide, more than 250 million people experience problems with hearing (Mathers et al. 2003). Depending on the definition of hearing impairment and the criteria applied, prevalence rates in adult populations vary from 10 to 20 percent (Davis, 1989; Karlsmose et al. 2000; Mathers et al. 2003; Hannaford et al. 2005). Although the prevalence of auditory disability is highest in older age groups (i.e. >65 years), there is still a large number of younger people with hearing problems. In 2004, Dutch Statistics estimated that about 1.5 million persons aged 12 years and older experienced problems with hearing when in a conversation with three or more persons, whereas in a conversation with one other person 290.000 individuals reported difficulties (Gommer & Poos 2010). The numbers of individuals younger than 75 years in these groups were 1.2 million and 227.000 respectively (Gommer & Poos 2010). The most prevalent type of hearing impairment is irreversible, which makes it a common chronic condition in human populations. There is a wide range of disabilities that people may experience as a result of their hearing loss, varying from difficulties using the telephone to communicate, to feeling restricted to participate in leisure activities. Another area which might be influenced by reduced hearing ability is psychosocial health.
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