Businessman holding empty pocket

Out of the 48 million Americans that report some measure of hearing loss, 60 percent are presently in the workforce. Which means millions of Americans head out to work every day with less than perfect hearing.

We know that hearing loss adversely impacts overall physical, social, and mental health, but what about the economic effects? Does hearing loss impact salary, and does the treatment of hearing loss help?

The Better Hearing Institute set out to find answers to these questions in a study titled The Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss on Household Income. Here’s a brief outline of the study, the results, and the implications.

The Study

The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) began by mailing out a brief screening survey to 80,000 households across the US. This aided to identify approximately 16,000 individuals with hearing loss.

Working with the list of 16,000 individuals with hearing loss, more comprehensive surveys were delivered to the following two groups:

  1. A random sample of 3,000 people with hearing loss that presently own hearing aids.
  2. A random sample of 3,000 people with hearing loss that do not presently own hearing aids.

The seven page survey incorporated questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid use and satisfaction, future plans, and employment information. Each respondent was additionally asked several questions about their hearing loss degree, which led to one of four classifications from mild to profound.

With all this information, the researchers could now:

  1. Compare income to the intensity of hearing loss
  2. Compare earnings to those who utilized hearing aids and those who did not

The results show that hearing loss affects income

Those with profound hearing loss were found, on average, to earn $12,000 less per year than those with mild hearing loss. The results also distinctly showed that as the severity of hearing loss increased, income fell proportionally.

And the overall economic cost to society?

According to the study, the estimated cost of lost earnings caused by untreated hearing loss in the United States is $122 billion, which results in an estimated $18 billion of unrealized federal taxes.

However, all is not lost. The study also confirmed, most significantly, that using hearing aids was found to offset the income effects of hearing loss by 50 percent.

Implications for employees with hearing loss

Does the use of hearing aids really result in a boost in income? Isn’t it a possibility that people who have a higher income are simply in a better position to afford hearing aids, so are consequently more likely to own and use them?

It’s a legitimate question, but there’s numerous reasons to believe that wearing hearing aids can, in fact, enhance income, through enhanced productivity. In regard to employment, hearing loss can:

  • Take people out of the job marketplace, or out of contention for promotion, generating higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.
  • Cause people to make mistakes on the job, limiting promotions.
  • Create communication obstacles, constraining productivity. Most jobs require effective verbal communication, and this is evaluated as a major element of job performance.
  • Reduce overall social and mental well being, leading to depression, exhaustion, impaired cognition, and a proportionate drop in job performance.

For these reasons, treating your hearing loss will likely enhance your job performance, and, as a result, your earning potential.

What are your thoughts? Have you encountered problems at work caused by hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?

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