Out of the 48 million Americans that claim some measure of hearing loss, 60 percent are currently in the workforce. That means millions of Americans head to work each day with less than optimal hearing.
We know that hearing loss negatively affects overall physical, social, and mental health, but what about the financial effects? Does hearing loss impact income, and does the treatment of hearing loss help?
The Better Hearing Institute set out to answer these questions in a study titled The Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss on Household Income. Here’s a quick overview of the study, the results, and the implications.
The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) started by mailing a brief screening survey to 80,000 households across the US. This aided to identify around 16,000 individuals with hearing loss.
Working with the list of 16,000 individuals with hearing loss, more comprehensive surveys were sent to the following two groups:
- A random sample of 3,000 people with hearing loss that currently own hearing aids.
- A random sample of 3,000 individuals with hearing loss that do not own hearing aids.
The seven page survey incorporated questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid use and satisfaction, future plans, and work information. Each respondent was additionally asked several questions about their hearing loss extent, which led to one of four categories from mild to profound.
With all of this data, the researchers could now:
- Compare income to the amount of hearing loss
- Compare earnings to those who utilized hearing aids and those who did not
The results demonstrate that hearing loss impacts 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 clearly showed that as the severity of hearing loss increased, income dropped proportionally.
And the total economic cost to society?
According to the study, the calculated cost of lost earnings caused by untreated hearing loss in the United States is $122 billion, which results in a projected $18 billion of uncollected federal taxes.
However, all is not lost. The study also showed, most significantly, that wearing hearing aids was found to mitigate the income effects of hearing loss by 50 percent.
Implications for employees with hearing loss
Does the use of hearing aids really lead to a surge in income? Isn’t it possible that people that have a higher income are simply in a better position to afford hearing aids, so are therefore more likely to own and use them?
It’s a legitimate question, but there’s good reason to believe that wearing hearing aids can, in fact, raise income, through greater work productivity. In terms of employment, hearing loss can:
- Take people out of the job market, or out of contention for promotion, leading to higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.
- Cause people to make mistakes on the job, limiting promotions.
- Create communication obstacles, limiting productivity. Most jobs demand effective verbal communication, and this is considered as a principal aspect of job performance.
- Reduce overall social and mental well being, resulting in depression, exhaustion, impaired cognition, and a corresponding decrease in job performance.
For these reasons, treating your hearing loss will likely improve your job performance, and, as a result, your earning potential.
What are your thoughts? Have you experienced problems at work due to hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?