Of the entire 48 million Americans that report some measure of hearing loss, 60 percent are currently in the workforce. That means millions of Americans head to work each day with less than optimal hearing.
We know that hearing loss negatively influences general physical, social, and mental health, but what about the economic consequences? Does hearing loss impact 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 outline of the study, the results, and the ramifications.
The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) started by mailing a brief screening survey to 80,000 households throughout the US. This aided to identify approximately 16,000 people with hearing loss.
Utilizing 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 presently own hearing aids.
The seven page survey included questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid usage and satisfaction, long-term plans, and career information. Every respondent was additionally asked several questions about their hearing loss severity, which led to one of four classifications from mild to profound.
With all of 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 influences 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 degree of hearing loss increased, income fell proportionally.
And the total economic cost to society?
According to the study, the calculated cost of lost earnings caused by untreated hearing loss in the US is $122 billion, which results in a projected $18 billion of unrealized federal taxes.
However, all is not lost. The study also showed, most significantly, that wearing hearing aids was found to mitigate the income effects of hearing loss by 50 percent.
Implications for employees with hearing loss
Does the use of hearing aids really lead to a boost in income? Isn’t it a possibility that people that 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 think that wearing hearing aids can, in fact, boost 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, creating higher levels of unemployment and underemployment.
- Cause people to make mistakes at work, limiting promotions.
- Create communication barriers, constraining productivity. Most jobs require effective verbal communication, and this is considered as a major aspect of job performance.
- Reduce overall social and mental quality of life, bringing about depression, fatigue, hindered cognition, and a proportionate drop 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?