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Last Updated: Sep 12, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Asia, the Middle East, and Oceania Print Page

Deaf populations overseas

 Sign language users: "500 (2007)." Ethnologue, Afghan Sign Language (2010).


  • "...approximately 750,000 (5% of total population) reported having a hearing problem great enough to occasionally cause them some degree of difficulty, particularly in noisy conditions." (1986)
  • The great majority, 575,000, are elderly and experienced hearing loss after leaving school. (1986)
  • "...168,000 have difficulty understanding speech, even with a hearing aid." (1986)
  • "About 40,000 were born hearing-impaired or acquired a hearing loss early enough in childhood that they required special education services." (1986)(Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.1 p.126.)
  • "...some seven per cent of the total population report some form of hearing disability (Project Knock Knock, 1989)." (Brelje, p.7.)
  • "One in six people in Australia has a hearing loss (Australian Hearing, Hearing loss in Australia, PDF) -- 2010 Census estimates total population as 22,386,713, suggesting approximately 3,731,118 individuals with hearing loss, or close to 17% of the population. The majority are older and late-deafened, with as much as 50% over between the ages of 60 and 70 estimated with hearing loss, and the percentage increasing significantly above this age group.

Prevalence: 35 per 100,000 (1933).
Sign language users:

  • 9000-9500 (1985).(Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.3 p.56.)
  • "14,000." Ethnologue, Auslan (2010).

China (People's Republic)

  • "Officially, there are 3 million deaf people in China." (1986). (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.3 p.67.)
  • "There are about 3 million deaf citizens in China...[o]nly about 33,000 of them currently attend schools for deaf students" (2004). (Encyclopedia of Deafness and Hearing Impairments, p.46.)
  • "A 2003 United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) study estimated that 10% of the population (more than 120 million people) had a hearing loss." (Johnson, Lytle, & Yang, "Deaf Education and the Deaf Community in China: Past, Present, and Future," in Deaf People around the World (2009))
  • "In December of 2006, The Second China National Survey on Disability was completed by the CDPF [China Disabled Persons' Federation]. This survey documented that the 'hearing impaired' population consists of 20.04 million people in China ... " (ibid.)

China (Taiwan), see Taiwan

Hong Kong
Number: Unknown. In 1982-1983, 1880 children with moderate-to-severe hearing loss were enrolled in Hong Kong schools or other programs.
Prevalence: Audiometric screening programs in schools suggest the rate of profound deafness (defined as greater than 90 dB) among Hong Kong children is 30.3 per 100,000; the rate of severe deafness (defined as between 56 and 90 dB) appears to be 50.14 per 100,000 (1983). (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.2 p.73.)
Sign language users: "20,000 (2007)." Ethnologue, Heung Kong Sau Yue (Hong Kong Sign Language) (2010).


  • Not available. "However, if it is assumed that 1.2 people out of 1000 are hearing impaired, then India, with a population of more then 700 million, has more than 800,000 people who are hearing-impaired..." (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.2 p.81.)
  • "In 1903, there were an estimated 70,000 children who were deaf in India. Of these, only 52 (or 0.07%) were enrolled in the three schools (Banerji, 1904a). This figure is grossly underestimated because the present number of deaf people is about 10 million." (Vashishta, "Deafness in India," in Deaf People around the World (2009))

Prevalence: 66 per 100,000 (1931). (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.1 p.252.)
Sign language users:

  • "It is estimated that Indian Sign Language (ISL) is used by over 1,000,000 deaf adults and by approximately 500,000 deaf children..." (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.3 p.79.)
  • "2,680,000 in India (2003)." Ethnologue, Indian Sign Language (2010).

Number: "2,000,000 deaf people (1993)." Ethnologue, Indonesian Sign Language (2010).
Sign language users: "41 (2007 SIL)." Estimate for users of Benkala Sign Language, which is a minority language. Ethnologue (2010).


    • " estimated 4500 people with a hearing loss of 75 dB or more" (1986). (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.3 p.84.)
    • "...4,200 pupils [i.e., children] found in educational programs for the deaf" (1999). (Brelje, p.199)


    • about 120 per 100,000 (1986). Among minorities (Arabs, Druze, Bedouin, and others), the rate appears to be higher than among the Jewish population, probably due to the high rate of consanguineous marriages in those minority groups. Sephardim Jews also show a deafness incidence rate about double that of Ashkenazim Jews. (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.2 p.102.)
    • As of 2003, the exact number of adults with disabilities, to say nothing of deafness, is unknown. No estimates are available.

    Sign language users: "5,000 users including some hearing persons (Van Cleve 1986)." Ethnologue, Israeli Sign Language (2010).


      • "about 300,000 adult Japanese with severe hearing impairment, defined as persons with hearing thresholds above 60 decibels in both ears or above 40 decibels in one ear and 80 decibels in the other" (1986). (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.2 p.110.)
      • "In 1980 the hearing-impaired population numbered 317,000." (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.3 p.89.)
      • "Between 320,000 and 7.5 million Japanese have hearing problems" (2004). (Encyclopedia of Deafness and Hearing Disorders, p.115.)

      Prevalence: 118 per 100,000 (1948, ages 3-39 only); 225 per 100,000 (1970, all ages). (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.1 p.252.)
      Sign language users:

      • " 317,000 (VanCleve 1986)." Ethnologue, Japanese Sign Language (2010).
      • "More than 95 percent of the 320,000 deaf Japanese are assumed to be able to understand Japanese Sign Language..." (2004) (Encyclopedia of Deafness and Hearing Disorders, p.115.)

      Number: estimated 9,313 deaf persons, or 0.27 % of total population (1981). (Brelje, p.224.)

      Number: "About 31,000 deaf persons recorded in 1980." (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.3 p.93.)
      Sign language users:

      • "24,000." Ethnologue, Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia (Malaysian Sign Language) (2010). Estimate for peninsular Malaysia.
      • Penang Sign Language (peninsular): "1,000, decreasing. 150 monolinguals. Ethnic population: 2,000." Ethnologue, Penang Sign Language (2010).

      Number: "Unknown number of [sign language] users out of 10,000 to 147,330 deaf (1998)." Ethnologue, Mongolian Sign Language (2010).

      Number: 38,795 deaf persons (date unknown). (Brelje, p.244.)
      Sign language users: "5,743 (2001 census)." Ethnologue, Nepalese Sign Language (2010).

      New Zealand
      Number: 7,700 deaf and hard-of-hearing people (2004). (Encyclopedia of Deafness and Hearing Disorders, p.151.)

      • approximately 300 per 100,000, varying with age (1984). (New Zealand Board of Health, Hearing Report, p.29-30.)
      • Estimated prevalence of hearing loss based on four different categories: 310,600 individuals, or ~8-9% of the population. (Greville, Hearing impaired and deaf people in New Zealand: An update on population numbers and characteristics, PDF (2005))

      Note: New Zealand Sign Language was recognized as one of New Zealand's three official languages (the others being English and Maori) in 2006 under the New Zealand Sign Language Act.


      • "...about 300,000 hearing impaired individuals" (1986). (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.2 p.286.)
      • " estimated 100,000 deaf people" (1986). (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.3 p.96.)
      • "About 100,000 to 4.2 million people...have hearing problems" (2004). (Encyclopedia of Deafness and Hearing Disorders, p.170.)

      Saudi Arabia
      Number: No figures available for adults. 2526 deaf and hard of hearing children were registered in educational programs for the deaf (1999). (Brelje p.332.)

      Number and sign language users: "3,000 (2007 SIL). Very few monolinguals. Ethnic population: 4,000 (2007 SIL)." Ethnologue, Singapore Sign Language (2010).

      Sri Lanka
      Number: 12,800 totally deaf persons (1981). (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.3 p.238.)

      Sign language users: approximately 30,000 (1986). (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.3 p.113.)


      • No good estimates available. Using the common formula of 1 in 1000, about 54,000 Thai people would be prelingually deaf. (1999). (Brelje, p.376.)
      • " 51,000 profoundly, prelingually deaf people in Thailand (1997 C.Reilly)." Ethnologue, Thai Sign Language (2010).


      Brelje, H. William. Global Perspectives on the Education of the Deaf in Selected Countries. Hillsboro, OR: Butte Publications, 1999.

      Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Online version:

      Gallaudet Encyclopedia of Deaf People and Deafness. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1986.

      Turkington, Carol, and Sussman, Allen E. Encyclopedia of Deafness and Hearing Disorders, second edition, updated. New York: Facts on File, 2004.

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      Prepared by Tom Harrington
      Reference and Instruction Librarian
      July, 2004
      Updated: July, 2010

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