Businessman holding empty pocket

Out of the 48 million Americans that describe some extent of hearing loss, 60 percent are presently in the workforce. That means millions of Americans head to work each day with less than perfect hearing.

We know that hearing loss adversely affects general physical, social, and mental health, but what about the economic effects? Does hearing loss impact income, 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 concise review of the study, the results, and the ramifications.

The Study

The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) began by sending out a brief screening survey to 80,000 households throughout the US. This aided to identify around 16,000 individuals with hearing loss.

Working with the list of 16,000 people with hearing loss, more detailed surveys were delivered to the following two groups:

  1. A random sample of 3,000 individuals with hearing loss that presently own hearing aids.
  2. A random sample of 3,000 people with hearing loss that do not presently own hearing aids.

The seven page survey incorporated questions about demographics, hearing loss, hearing aid usage and satisfaction, future plans, and employment information. Every respondent was also asked several questions about their hearing loss extent, which resulted in one of four categories from mild to profound.

With all this data, the researchers could now:

  1. Compare income to the level of hearing loss
  2. Compare earnings to those who used hearing aids and those who did not

The results reveal that hearing loss has an effect on 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 distinctly showed that as the severity of hearing loss increased, income fell 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 United States is $122 billion, which results in an estimated $18 billion of uncollected federal taxes.

However, all is not lost. The study also confirmed, most importantly, that using hearing aids was found to minimize the income effects of hearing loss by 50 percent.

Implications for professionals with hearing loss

Does the use of hearing aids really bring about a surge in income? Isn’t it possible that those who have a higher salary 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 think that wearing hearing aids can, in fact, increase income, through enhanced 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 at work, limiting promotions.
  • Create communication obstacles, constraining productivity. Most jobs demand effective verbal communication, and this is evaluated as a major part of job performance.
  • Reduce overall social and mental well being, leading to depression, exhaustion, impaired cognition, and a corresponding decrease in job performance.

For these reasons, treating your hearing loss will most likely enhance 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?

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