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

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Deaf populations overseas

Sign language users: "350 to 400 (1988 E. Powlison)." Ethnologue, Bolivian Sign Language (2010).


  • 300,000 to 600,000, based on presumed prevalence rate (1986). (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.1 p.153.)
  • "...estimates suggest that there are up to 9.6 million deaf and hard-of-hearing Brazilians" (2004). (Encyclopedia of Deafness and Hearing Disorders, p.38.)

Prevalence: "Thought to be" 0.5% to 1.0% of the population under age 20 (1986). (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.1 p.153.)


  • About 2,000,000 (1 in 10) have some form of hearing loss (1986).
  • "About 40,000 adults have hearing losses of such a nature as to preclude the processing of information auditorially." (1986)
  • "Nearly 4000 children and youths are in special programs for hearing-impaired individuals. Of this number, almost half have profound losses." (1986)
  • These numbers do not include the Native American/Inuit population of the far north, where deafness is reportedly "endemic." (1986). (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.1 p.164.)
  • "About 1 in 25 Canadian citizens have some type of hearing problem...About 200,000 Canadians are deaf" (2004). (Encyclopedia of Deafness and Hearing Disorders, p.41.)
  • "It has been estimated that there are over 200,000 profoundly deaf people in Canada, and an additional 1,500,000 with milder hearing impairments (Rodda & Hiron, 1989)." (Brelje, p.33.)

Prevalence: Prelingually deaf: 63 per 100,000 (1941). (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.1 p.252.)

Number and sign language users: "390 (1989 M. Yonadjiel). Ethnic population: Large deaf population (1989)." Ethnologue, Chadian Sign Language (2010).

Bogota only
Number: "50,000 deaf in Bogotá in 1992." Ethnologue, Colombian Sign Language (2010).
Providence Island only
Number: At least 19 born-deaf out of a total 2500-3000 population (1986). (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.3 p.103.)


  • Approximately 150,000 people estimated to be deaf or hard of hearing (1981). This is considered a conservative estimate.
  • Estimated 13,000 deaf or hard of hearing children aged 4 to 15 years (1980).

Percentage: Approximately 2% of the total population had some degree of hearing loss (1981). (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.1 p.347.)
Sign language users: "188,000 (Van Cleve 1986)." Ethnologue, Ecuadorian Sign Language (2010).

Number: estimated 2,000,000 deaf or hard of hearing children. No figure available for number of adults. (1999). (Brelje, p.72-73.)
Prevalence: 60 per 100,000 (1937). (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.1 p.252.)

Sign language users: "3,400 including hearing people (2003)." Ethnologue, Adamorobe Sign Language (2010).

Prevalence: 138 per 100,000 (1935). (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.1 p.252.)

Number: "Approximately 2,500 Deaf children in Jamaica (2004 M. Kimball)." Ethnologue, Jamaican Sign Language (2010).

Number: "340,000, increasing." Ethnologue, Kenyan Sign Language (2010).

Number: "180,000 (2006 SIL)." Ethnologue, Madagascar Sign Language (2010).

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

Number: estimated 1,300,000 deaf people (1986). (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.3 p.94.)
Prevalence: 39 per 100,000 (1949); 46 per 100,000 (1970). (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.1 p.252.)
Sign language users:

  • "87,000 to 100,000 mainly monolingual users (1986 T. C. Smith-Stark), out of 1,300,000 deaf persons in Mexico (VanCleve 1986)." Ethnologue, Mexican Sign Language (2010).
  • Yucatec Maya Sign Language: "16 deaf people out of a village of 500 in the primary location (1999 H. Smith). All use sign (Sacks 1989)." Ethnologue, Nohya Sign Language (2010).

Number: about 4000 deaf persons (1998). (Judy Shepard-Kegl, quoted in
Sign language users: "3,000 (1997 Asociación Nacional de Sordos de Nicaragua)." Ethnologue, Idioma de Señas de Nicaragua (Nicaraguan Sign Language) (2010).


  • "...more than 70,000 are believed to be deaf. Nearly 7000 deaf persons are of school age, although less than half are actually in school." (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.2 p.242.)
  • "About 7,000 of these [70,000] are believed to be between six and 18 years of age" (2004). (Encyclopedia of Deafness and Hearing Disorders, p.151.)

Prevalence: 300 per 100,000 (1940). (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.1 p.252.)

South Africa

  • "...more than 10,000 children suffered an auditory disability, while approximately 3000 attended schools for deaf children" (1978). (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.3 p.185.)
  • 383,408 "hearing disabled" (2003). (Statistics South Africa.)
  • At least 4 million South Africans in 1995 were deaf or hard of hearing (1998). (South Africa Yearbook, 1998.)
  • "The census revealed that 2,255,982 people identified themselves as having disabilities, including deaf people who constituted 5% of the total population at the time." (Census 2001, in Storbeck, Magongwa, and Parkin's Education of the Deaf in South Africa, in Deaf people around the world
  • "Of the approximately 44.8 million people counted in Census 2001 2.3 million were reported as disabled ... 314,000 (0.7%) [had] a hearing [disability]." (Stages in the life cycle of South Africans (PDF), Census 2001, Statistics South Africa)
  • "12,100 deaf persons including 6,000 Black, 2,000 English white, 2,000 Afrikaans white, 1,200 Coloured, 900 Indian (VanCleve 1986)." Ethnologue, South African Sign Language (2010).

Prevalence: 49 per 100,000 (1936; white or "European" population only) (Gallaudet Encyclopedia, vol.1 p.252.)


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

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

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

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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