Out of the 48 million Americans that claim some measure of hearing loss, 60 percent are presently in the labor force. Which means millions of Americans head out to work every day with less than optimal hearing.
We know that hearing loss adversely impacts overall physical, social, and mental health, but what about the economic consequences? Does hearing loss affect salary, 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 review of the study, the results, and the implications.
The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) began by mailing out a short screening survey to 80,000 households throughout the US. This helped to identify around 16,000 individuals with hearing loss.
Working with the list of 16,000 individuals with hearing loss, more comprehensive surveys were delivered 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 people with hearing loss that do not own hearing aids.
The 7-page survey incorporated questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid usage and satisfaction, future plans, and work information. Each respondent was additionally asked multiple questions about their hearing loss severity, which resulted in one of four classifications from mild to profound.
With all of this information, the researchers could now:
- Compare income to the extent of hearing loss
- Compare earnings to those who utilized hearing aids and those who did not
The results show that hearing loss has an effect on income
Those with profound hearing loss were found, on average, to earn $12,000 less annually than those with mild hearing loss. The results also distinctly showed that as the severity of hearing loss increased, income dropped proportionally.
And the total economic cost to society?
According to the study, the estimated cost of lost earnings due to untreated hearing loss in the United States is $122 billion, which results in a projected $18 billion of unrealized federal taxes.
However, all is not lost. The study also revealed, 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 result in an increase 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 consequently more likely to own and wear them?
It’s a legitimate question, but there’s numerous reasons to believe that wearing hearing aids can, in fact, enhance income, through enhanced work productivity. In regard to employment, hearing loss can:
- Take people out of the job marketplace, or out of contention for promotion, producing higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.
- Cause people to make mistakes at work, limiting promotions.
- Create communication barriers, restricting productivity. Most jobs require effective verbal communication, and this is considered as a significant component of job performance.
- Reduce overall social and mental quality of life, resulting in depression, fatigue, impaired cognition, and a corresponding drop 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 dealt with problems at work caused by hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?