When Your Vision and Hearing Decline with Age

If you want to feel like you’re getting old, visit an optometrist and have them tell you that in 6 to 12 months you won’t be able to read things up close and you’ll need bifocals.

For most of my life, I had good vision without glasses or contacts, but in my mid-30s I noticed the basketball score on television looking kind of blurry. I had astigmatism. Just a little.

My prescription didn’t change for years. Until recently. My optometrist hit me with the news that most people start to have trouble reading up close between 39 to 43 years old. I had to look into it.

The following chart shows the percentage of adults who wear glasses or contacts, by age, based on data from the National Health Interview Survey.

When We Wear Glasses or Contacts

We start to see the need around 40 years old.


Half of adults wear glasses or contacts from a young age, but you can see the inflection point right around 40. You can see a similar shift in the follow chart that shows difficulty seeing.

When Seeing Gets Difficult, Even with Glasses or Contacts

The curves start to flatten out around 50.


There’s some solace in seeing the curve level off after the initial dip. It’s not quite like that with hearing though.

When We Use Hearing Aids

Hearing seems fine for a good while until it’s not.


While fewer people use hearing aids than wear glasses/contacts, the curves for difficulty hearing suggest that people just deal with hearing less over time.

When Hearing Gets Difficult, Even with a Hearing Aid

Hearing appears to steadily decline with no leveling off in the later years.


Something to look forward to for you young ones. Enjoy your senses while you have still have them. It’s too late for me.

Become a member. Support an independent site. Make great charts.

See What You Get

My work on FlowingData is supported by paid memberships. Since 2007, I have been analyzing data and making charts to help people understand and appreciate data in their work and everyday lives. I hope to keep it going for many more years.

If you liked this (or want to learn how to make similar data things), please consider supporting this small corner of the internet with a membership. You get unlimited access to visualization courses, tutorials, and extra resources. Thanks. — Nathan