Out of the 48 million Americans that report some level of hearing loss, 60 percent are currently in the workforce. Which means millions of Americans head to work every day with less than perfect hearing.
We know that hearing loss adversely affects overall physical, social, and mental health, but what about the financial consequences? Does hearing loss affect income, 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 short review of the study, the results, and the implications.
The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) began by sending out a short screening survey to 80,000 households across the US. This aided to identify approximately 16,000 people with hearing loss.
Utilizing the list of 16,000 individuals with hearing loss, more extensive surveys were delivered to the following two groups:
- A random sample of 3,000 individuals with hearing loss that currently own hearing aids.
- A random sample of 3,000 individuals with hearing loss that do not presently own hearing aids.
The 7-page survey included questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid usage and satisfaction, future plans, and employment information. Each respondent was also asked multiple questions about their hearing loss extent, which led to one of four classifications from mild to profound.
With all of this data, the researchers could now:
- Compare income to the degree of hearing loss
- Compare earnings to those who utilized hearing aids and those who did not
The results show that hearing loss influences 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 plainly showed that as the severity of hearing loss increased, income fell proportionally.
And the overall economic cost to society?
According to the study, the calculated cost of lost earnings due to untreated hearing loss in the US is $122 billion, which results in a projected $18 billion of uncollected federal taxes.
Having said that, all is not lost. The study also confirmed, most importantly, that wearing 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 surge in income? Isn’t it possible that those that have a higher income are simply in a better position to afford hearing aids, so are consequently more likely to own and wear them?
It’s a legitimate question, but there’s numerous reasons to think that wearing hearing aids can, in fact, raise income, through greater productivity. In relation to employment, hearing loss can:
- Take people out of the job marketplace, 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 barriers, limiting productivity. Most jobs require effective verbal communication, and this is evaluated as a major component of job performance.
- Reduce overall social and mental quality of life, bringing about depression, exhaustion, impaired cognition, and a proportionate decrease 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 dealt with problems at work caused by hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?