Of the 48 million Americans that report some amount of hearing loss, 60 percent are currently in the labor force. That means millions of Americans go to work every day with less than perfect hearing.
We know that hearing loss adversely influences 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 find answers to these questions in a study titled The Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss on Household Income. Here’s a quick outline of the study, the results, and the implications.
The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) began by mailing out 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 sent to the following two groups:
- A random sample of 3,000 individuals with hearing loss that currently own hearing aids.
- A random sample of 3,000 people with hearing loss that do not own hearing aids.
The 7-page survey included questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid use and satisfaction, long-term plans, and employment information. Each respondent was also asked several questions about their hearing loss severity, which led to one of four categories from mild to profound.
With all of this information, the researchers could now:
- Compare income to the degree of hearing loss
- Compare earnings to those who utilized hearing aids and those who did not
The results reveal that hearing loss impacts income
Individuals with profound hearing loss were found, on average, to earn $12,000 less each 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 total economic cost to society?
According to the study, the calculated cost of lost earnings due to untreated hearing loss in the United States is $122 billion, which results in an estimated $18 billion of uncollected federal taxes.
However, all is not lost. The study also revealed, most significantly, 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 bring about a boost in income? Isn’t it a possibility that people that 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, raise income, through greater productivity. In regard to employment, hearing loss can:
- Take people out of the job marketplace, or out of contention for promotion, causing higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.
- Cause people to make mistakes on the job, limiting promotions.
- Create communication obstacles, restricting productivity. Most jobs demand effective verbal communication, and this is assessed as a principal aspect of job performance.
- Reduce overall social and mental well being, leading to depression, exhaustion, impaired cognition, and a proportionate 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 encountered problems at work due to hearing loss, and have hearing aids helped?