The results of several studies on hearing aid use in the Welsh population were considered to investigate some general principles on determinants of such use within the general populations of developed countries. Overall hearing aid possession and use were not found to have changed significantly over the past 18 years, remaining at 4 per cent having obtained hearing aids and 3 per cent using them. The possession figures were consistent across all methodologies used. Higher hearing aid use in the post-industrial valleys (in which the traditional industries of coal mining and steel production had disappeared) was explained entirely by a higher level of reported hearing difficulties there. In all populations, less than 20 per cent of those reporting difficulties possessed hearing aids. Whether a hearing aid had been obtained free of charge from the National Health Service or purchased privately did not influence whether it was still used. It was concluded that an effort to improve the acceptability of hearing aids and reduce their stigma is required.