Of the 48 million Americans that report some level of hearing loss, 60 percent are presently in the workforce. Which means millions of Americans go to work each day with less than optimal hearing.
We know that hearing loss negatively affects general physical, social, and mental health, but what about the economic consequences? 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 overview of the study, the results, and the ramifications.
The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) started by sending out a brief screening survey to 80,000 households throughout the US. This aided to identify approximately 16,000 individuals with hearing loss.
Utilizing the list of 16,000 individuals with hearing loss, more extensive surveys were sent to the following two groups:
- A random sample of 3,000 individuals with hearing loss that presently own hearing aids.
- A random sample of 3,000 individuals with hearing loss that do not presently own hearing aids.
The seven page survey included questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid usage and satisfaction, long-term plans, and employment information. Every 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 data, the researchers could now:
- Compare income to the intensity of hearing loss
- Compare earnings to those who used hearing aids and those who did not
The results show that hearing loss affects income
Individuals with profound hearing loss were found, on average, to earn $12,000 less annually than those with mild hearing loss. The results also clearly showed that as the severity of hearing loss increased, income dropped proportionally.
And the overall economic cost to society?
According to the study, the estimated cost of lost earnings due to untreated hearing loss in the US is $122 billion, which results in an estimated $18 billion of unrealized federal taxes.
Having said that, 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 employees with hearing loss
Does the use of hearing aids really contribute to an increase in income? Isn’t it conceivable that people who have a higher salary are simply in a better position to pay for 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, increase income, through enhanced productivity. In regard 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 at work, limiting promotions.
- Create communication barriers, restricting productivity. Most jobs demand effective verbal communication, and this is considered as a principal aspect of job performance.
- Reduce overall social and mental quality of life, resulting in depression, exhaustion, impaired cognition, and a corresponding decrease in job performance.
For these reasons, treating your hearing loss will most likely improve your job performance, and, as a result, your income potential.
What are your thoughts? Have you encountered problems at work caused by hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?