Out of the 48 million Americans that claim some amount of hearing loss, 60 percent are currently in the labor force. Which means millions of Americans head to work each day with less than perfect hearing.
We know that hearing loss adversely impacts general physical, social, and mental health, but what about the financial consequences? Does hearing loss affect 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 review of the study, the results, and the implications.
The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) began by mailing a brief screening survey to 80,000 households throughout the US. This aided to identify approximately 16,000 individuals with hearing loss.
Using the list of 16,000 individuals with hearing loss, more detailed 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 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. Every respondent was also asked multiple questions about their hearing loss severity, which resulted in one of four categories from mild to profound.
With all this information, the researchers could now:
- Compare income to the amount of hearing loss
- Compare income to those who used hearing aids and those who did not
The results reveal that hearing loss has an effect on income
People with profound hearing loss were found, on average, to earn $12,000 less each year than those with mild hearing loss. The results also clearly showed that as the degree of hearing loss increased, income dropped 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 demonstrated, most significantly, that using hearing aids was found to reduce the income effects of hearing loss by 50 percent.
Implications for employees with hearing loss
Does the use of hearing aids really bring about a surge in income? Isn’t it a possibility that those that have a higher income are simply in a better position to pay for 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 work productivity. In relation 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, limiting productivity. Most jobs require effective verbal communication, and this is assessed as a major part of job performance.
- Reduce overall social and mental well being, leading to depression, fatigue, hindered 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 earning potential.
What are your thoughts? Have you experienced problems at work caused by hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?