Out of the 48 million Americans that report some measure of hearing loss, 60 percent are currently in the workforce. That means millions of Americans head out to work every day with less than optimal hearing.
We know that hearing loss adversely affects overall physical, social, and mental health, but what about the financial 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 short overview of the study, the results, and the implications.
The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) began by mailing a brief screening survey to 80,000 households across the US. This helped to identify around 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 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 included questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid usage and satisfaction, long-term plans, and work information. Every respondent was additionally asked multiple questions about their hearing loss severity, which produced one of four classifications 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 used 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 plainly showed that as the degree 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 uncollected federal taxes.
Having said that, all is not lost. The study also revealed, most importantly, 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 contribute to an increase in income? Isn’t it conceivable that people who have a higher income are simply in a better position to pay for 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, increase income, through enhanced work productivity. In regard to 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 obstacles, constraining productivity. Most jobs demand effective verbal communication, and this is assessed as a principal ingredient of job performance.
- Reduce overall social and mental quality of life, leading to depression, exhaustion, hindered cognition, and a corresponding 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?