Businessman holding empty pocket

Of the 48 million Americans that describe some amount of hearing loss, 60 percent are presently in the labor force. Which means millions of Americans go to work every day with less than perfect 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 find answers to these questions in a study titled The Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss on Household Income. Here’s a short outline of the study, the results, and the ramifications.

The Study

The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) started 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.

Using the list of 16,000 people 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 individuals with hearing loss that do not own hearing aids.

The 7-page survey included questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid use and satisfaction, future plans, and career information. Each respondent was also asked multiple questions about their hearing loss extent, which produced one of four classifications from mild to profound.

With all of this information, the researchers could now:

  1. Compare income to the degree of hearing loss
  2. Compare income to those who used hearing aids and those who did not

The results reveal that hearing loss influences income

People 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 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 an estimated $18 billion of unrealized federal taxes.

However, all is not lost. The study also demonstrated, most importantly, that wearing hearing aids was found to minimize the income effects of hearing loss by 50 percent.

Implications for workers with hearing loss

Does the use of hearing aids really lead to a surge in income? Isn’t it possible that people who have a higher salary 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, boost income, through greater productivity. In terms of employment, hearing loss can:

  • Take people out of the job market, 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 barriers, constraining productivity. Most jobs demand effective verbal communication, and this is assessed as a principal element of job performance.
  • Reduce overall social and mental quality of life, leading to depression, fatigue, 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 income potential.

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

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