A retrospective study was performed on the prevalence and etiology of bilateral sensorineural hearing impairment (> 25 dB at 0.5-4 kHz in the better ear) among children born 1974-1987 in a province of eastern Finland. A total of 98 children with hearing impairment were identified, which gave a prevalence of 2.1 per 1000 live births. This prevalence was higher than reported form most of other developed countries but slightly lower than reported from Sweden. A slight decline from the prevalence of 2.3 per 1000 in the 1970s to the prevalence of 1.9 per 1000 in the 1980s was observed. Contrary to several earlier studies, no male predominance was noted, there were even slightly more females than males (52 vs. 46). Etiology of the hearing loss was estimated to be genetic in 41%, congenital nongenetic in 13%, delayed-onset nongenetic in 16% and remained unknown in 30%. On average, children with a congenital disorder had more severe hearing impairment than those with delayed-onset hearing loss, e.g. 31% of the former patients had profound (> 95 dB) hearing loss compared to 6% of the latter. A very gratifying finding was that no case of congenital hearing impairment caused by maternal rubella was identified after 1982, obviously due to general vaccinations. Also, a decline in cases of hearing loss attributed to perinatal and neonatal complications was observed.